Australia is a party to seven core international human rights treaties. The right to freedom of assembly and association (aka your right to protest) is contained in:

  • Articles 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);
  • Article 8(1)(a) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR);
  • Article 5 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD);
  • Article 15 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC); and,
  • Article 21 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

The right to freedom of association is supposed to protect the right of all persons to group together voluntarily for a common goal and to form and join an association. This should encompass your right to protest against government lockdown, Black Lives Matter and Refugee’s are Welcome.

However, time and time again we are seeing people arrested for protesting.

Are our rights to protest even worth the paper they are printed on?

In Brisbane, a protest is currently being held outside the Kangaroo Point Central Hotel and Apartments. Refugee advocates are protesting against the 120 people, some of whom have been in detention for years, being held in the Kangaroo Point Central Hotel. There have been multiple arrests and summons and fines have been issued. 

Also, in Brisbane, a Black Lives Matter rally was organized outside of Parliament House at lunchtime. The group were protesting the police brutality against indigenous Australian and the call for justice for those who have died in custody. Again, there were multiple arrests and summons and fines have been issued.

In Melbourne, ten people were arrested outside Parliament House. A protest was opposing the 5g mobile phone technology being installed. Instead of respecting this groups right to protest, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, called for the protesters to be arrested, dismissing the groups belief’s as “nonsense”.

This brings us to NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller. Mr Fuller has issued a warning for people to stay away from protests. He has publicly stated that the police will press on with a Supreme Court bid to have rallies declared illegal.

Our Prime Minister has raised the issue of a double standard – when asked if police should arrest and charge protesters, Morrison said: “I think they should, I mean, I really do think they should, because you can’t have a double standard here.” But there is a double standard.  

It is set out in the seven international human rights treaties Australia is a member of, we have a right to protest the COVID-19 Lockdown. But the reality is, you can and given the current political climate, will be arrested.

If you have been arrested or been served with a fine or summons for protesting, we advise you to seek legal advice.