Dutton suggests protesters lose welfare

 

HOME Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has suggested those taking part in protests which disrupt traffic should have their welfare payments cancelled.

Mr Dutton says mandatory sentences should also be imposed to crack down on law-breaking climate change demonstrators who have held regular protests across Brisbane recently.

Mr Dutton said he agreed with suggestions from 2GB broadcaster Ray Hadley on Thursday that protesters go "ask Mummy and Daddy for cash" following reports some demonstrators received welfare.

"You're sitting on your backsides and you won't be getting paid (by) us," Mr Hadley said.

Mr Dutton's response was "I agree".

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash followed up his comments threatening to suspend the activists' welfare payments.

"Taxpayers should not be ­expected to subsidise the protests of others. Protesting is not, and never will be, an exemption from a welfare recipient's mutual obligation to look for a job," Senator Cash told The Australian.

"Those who refuse to look for a job because they are too busy protesting may find they have their payments suspended."

The Greens have seized on the suggestion, slamming it as undemocratic.

"It is entirely inappropriate for Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton or anyone in government to threaten people with the withdrawal of income support in an attempt to silence their views," Queensland Greens Senator Larissa Waters said.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale told the ABC people should be to free to choose what they do with their free time, regardless of whether they're on income support.

Mr Dutton's call for minimum sentences for protesters also came under criticism from a peak legal body which slammed the suggestion as wrong, populist and punitive.

"Peter Dutton takes an extreme and populist view. In this particular case, he's simply 100 per cent wrong," Queensland Law Society president Bill Potts told AAP.

He said any limit on judicial discretion regarding protesters could lead to unfair punishments.

"Mandatory sentencing, more often than not, straight-jackets the courts," Mr Potts said.

"There is a complete difference between occupying an intersection for 10 minutes opposed to chaining yourself to a 44-gallon drum full of concrete and holding up a coal train for five hours," Mr Potts said.

An Extinction Rebellion member told AAP the threat of a mandatory sentence would not deter him protesting an impending "ecological catastrophe". The state Labor government has moved to outlaw items used by protesters which make it harder for them to be removed from roads and train tracks, such as steel cylinders or drums filled with concrete.

The new laws could see those who use such items face prison time and hefty fines.



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