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Anzac Weekend, Federal Elections, and the Right to Protest

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In an already turbulent year, the Prime Minister has called a Federal Election. Federal Elections take place every four years. The Federal Election has been set for Thursday 21 May 2022.

This month we explore:

  • Political opinion
  • Failure to vote
  • The right to protest 
  • Pesky demerit points
england flag with vote 3

Political division on display:

Bagging out politicians and political parties is an Olympic sport in Australia. Everyone has an opinion, even those who claim to sit on the fence or not care about politics. Sometimes, people, especially candidates, become so caught up in it all, they take to damaging campaign signage such as corflutes. 

Damage to election material may not simply amount to property damage under the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). It may also be considered a Commonwealth offence under s 37 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.

Section 37 states that a person must not hinder or interfere with the free exercise of or performance, by any other person, of any political right or duty that is relevant to an election, for example, property damage. The maximum penalty under s37 is three years imprisonment, a fine of $21,000 or both.

If you have been charged with damaging campaign signage, contact our office for a free initial consultation.

pencil with vote

You have to vote. It’s a democracy!

Australia, like many of its allies, prides itself on being a democracy. Democracy, demands eligible citizens to elect members of the parliament on the understanding that those members represent the interests of the citizens. The problem arises when there are no candidates who represent the interests of the citizens.

Section 245 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 states it is an offence to fail to vote in an election unless you have a valid and sufficient reason, for example, incapacitation due to illness or injury. The maximum penalty for this offence is $210.00.

It is not enough to simply attend the polling both on the day and have your name marked off. You MUST complete and submit the ballot paper. It is essential to remember that not all candidates will represent your every interest. However, if you fail to vote, it’s unfair to complain about the outcome.

If you have been fined for failing to vote, contact our office for a free initial  consultation.

people with megaphone

Having your voice heard:

Protesting is one of the many ways citizens can express their political concerns. It is a right that stems as far back as the Magna Carter and is protected by the Australian Constitution. While protesting is a legal form of political expression, there are laws and rule around how protests are to be conducted safely for example the Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW), Inclosed Lands Protection Act 1901 (NSW), etc.

Climate change and COVID have brought this method of political communication to the forefront of everyone’s attention. Of late, we have witnessed everything from truck conveys along major highways to people climbing the Harbour Bridge and shutting down major road networks. This has prompted the State Government to enact legislation further tightening the conduct of protesters.

The Roads and Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 has been tabled in Parliament in an effort to prevent protesters from causing disruption to major roads, ports and train stations. If passed, the maximum penalty would be two years imprisonment, $20,000 fine or both. While it is important to ensure protests are conducted safely, it will be interesting to see its application.

If you have been arrested while protesting, contact our office for a free initial consultation.

blur vehicle in the road

That old chestnut:

The Easter long weekend not only brings a chance for a much-needed break, it also brings double demerits. With more people escaping the city for the first time since lock downs hit our shores, there is a real risk of complacency on the roads and an even greater risk of losing your licence.

Double demerit points were introduced in 1997 as part of an Easter road safety campaign in response to a significant increase in road fatalities. The campaign has expanded over the years to include every long weekend. This April, double demerits are in play from 16 April to 18 April (Easter weekend) and 22 April to 25 April (ANZAC weekend).

Double demerits apply to speeding, seat belts, motorcycle helmets and mobile phone offences. For example, if you have been caught using your mobile phone over the long weekend, you risk losing 10 demerit points. An unrestricted licence holder in NSW has 13 points. If you have already lost points, a targeted double demerit offence may mean you will lose your licence.

If you have been fined for a double demerit offence, contact our office for a free initial consultation.

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