26 November 2015

The Victorian Government’s proposed anti-free speech buffer zone law is so scrappily constructed it will create confusion and, if policed, would prohibit free speech across much of the State, according to the Australian Christian Lobby.

ACL Victorian director Dan Flynn said the exclusion zone bill will make it a crime for any pro-life communication within 150 metres of public hospitals, doctor’s clinics and abortion clinics.

He urges members of the Victorian Legislative Council to vote against the Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Safe Access Zones) bill when it is expected to come before parliament today.

“At 150 metres, the zones could cover much of the Melbourne CBD and other town centres. Nobody knows where many of the zones are as the Government is keeping this secret. The Minister for Families and Children, the Hon Jenny Mikakos, refuses to reveal where the doctors clinics are that administer the abortion drug, RU 486, claiming this information would be unhelpful.

“The result is that people may be breaking the law without even realising it. In addition, the Government bill lacks clarity as to which behaviours might breach the exclusion zones. The bill is unnecessary as current laws provide adequate safeguards already.

“If someone parked their car with an “End Abortion” bumper sticker on a CBD street, they could be breaking the law and not know it.

“Even the first year law student knows that the hallmark of a good law is that it must be knowable and enforceable. This fails the most basic test.”

During debate on the Bill in parliament on Tuesday, Ms Mikakos confirmed that the grounds of the East Melbourne Greek Orthodox Church, Australian Catholic University and the Catholic Education Office in East Melbourne would be just some of many places subject to the new laws.

“The banning of any pro-life communication within 150 metres of an abortion clinic is simply the Government silencing any speech that it does not agree with,” Mr Flynn said.

“While the ACL believes the government does have a legitimate role in protecting public safety and patient access to lawful services, these rights are already protected under existing laws.

“Parliamentarians need to be mindful that this law is not just about providing public safety, which is already sufficiently covered by laws, but is a deliberate attempt to stop vulnerable expectant mothers from having excess to balanced information and a caring hand.”

Around 300 Victorian lives have been saved over the past 20 years because of the peaceful and gentle persuasion of pro-life advocates, Mr Flynn said.