Summary

The Victorian Government is seeking to expand existing powers of Victoria Police by amending the Summary Offences Act 1996 (Vic) (the SOA Act). The Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment Bill 2013 (the Victorian Bill) was tabled in the Victorian Parliament on 12 December 2013.

The proposed amendments to the SOA Act target a number of issues including unlawful pickets. If enacted, the amendments will expand the existing powers of Victoria Police to direct a person to ‘move on’ and will enable Courts to make an ‘exclusion order’ in respect of a person who has repeatedly been directed to ‘move on’ from the same place.

The proposed amendments to the SOA Act come just weeks after the Federal Coalition Government tabled a bill, which if enacted, will reintroduce the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) and arm the ABCC with powers to prevent unlawful pickets.

Unlawful picketing

Additional powers provided for in the Victorian Bill will allow the police to 'end unlawful union pickets and protester blockades'1 by extending the ability to issue ‘move-on’ directions to a person who is:

  • causing or likely to cause an undue obstruction to another person or traffic, and
  • impeding or attempting to impede another person from lawfully entering or leaving a premises.

If the Victorian Bill is enacted a person who the police reasonably believe has failed to comply with a move-on direction may be arrested. Police will also be able to require the name, address and proof of identity of any person they intend to direct to move on. The Victorian Bill provides that failure to comply with a move-on direction or a request for name, address or proof of identity is an offence with a penalty (for FY 2013-2014) of $721.80.

The police power to require proof of identity will assist police in responding to pickets, whether they comprise of workers, union officials or community members.

If enacted, the amendments to the SOA Act will also enable a court to make an ‘exclusion order’ in respect of a person who has been repeatedly directed to move on from the same place. The exclusion order would prevent a person from returning to a particular place, can last for up to 12 months and can be subject to Court imposed conditions. The maximum penalty for contravening an exclusion order is two years imprisonment.

The Australian Building and Construction Commission

These proposed amendments to the SOA Act come just weeks after the Federal Coalition Government tabled bills to reintroduce the Australian Building and Construction Commission (the ABCC) and arm the ABCC with additional powers to prevent unlawful pickets.2

If enacted, the Building and Construction (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013 (Cth) and the Building and Construction Industry (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013 (Cth) will re-establish the ABCC and will provide it with greater powers than are currently possessed by the Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate, the body currently responsible for regulating workplace relations in the building and construction industry.