Crackdown on free speech would stop campaigns such as Last Drinks, Stop the Sell Off
A Bill being considered by the NSW parliament today would prevent unions running properly resourced, cross-movement campaigns on issues such as alcohol-fuelled violence or energy privatisation in the lead up to an election.
Under proposed laws expected to be rammed through parliament today, so called ‘third party' campaigners will be restricted from ‘acting in concert’ in the six months prior to an election. This would effectively outlaw joint union and community campaigns that spend more than $500,000.

Stop the Sell-Off, which involved multiple unions in a campaign against electricity privatisation at the 2015 state election, would be illegal.

And Last Drinks, a joint initiative on behalf of health, hospital and emergency service workers fed up with alcohol-fuelled violence would also be illegal if it were running today and seeking to advertise before an election.

“These laws will prevent civil society banding together and amplifying its voice against the din of conservative governments and deep pocketed corporates,” said Mark Morey, Secretary of Unions NSW.

“Whether it's health and emergency services workers, or those in the energy sector banding together, joint campaigns will be banned. The Government is effectively asking the people of NSW to believe that conservative governments and their corporate mates always get it right and should be shielded from criticism.

“Trade unions and other civil society and protest organisations have often corrected the wayward course of bad governments. Without strong, well resourced, multifaceted protests we would be stuck with Workchoices. The Green Ban campaigns of the 1970s that saved buildings such as the QVB would not be possible today if they were properly resourced and run in the lead up to an election.

“This is a Government that is afraid of criticism. It needs to drop the paranoia and allow free speech to flourish."

The laws would also more than halve the amount unions, charities, churches and other ‘third parties’ can spend within six months of an election, capping electoral expenditure at $500,000 and making it extremely difficult to run a campaign.

“Working people have always pooled our resources to make sure our voice is heard. We simply don’t have the resources of an AMP or a Commonwealth Bank, or a Malcolm Turnbull for that matter.

“The Liberals want to hold the firehose of government-funded advertising in one hand and the donations of wealthy individuals in the other, while they tie the hands of unions and community organisations.

"This is the political equivalent of match-fixing and anyone with an interest in free speech and robust debate should be concerned."

In 2013, Unions NSW successfully appealed restrictions on political communication in the High Court, which resulted in the government being ordered to pay costs of around $600,000.

Mark Morey

Secretary

Unions NSW

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