Protecting peaceful protest rights in the ACT

The Conservation Council, along with other civil society groups in the ACT, is concerned at proposed legislative changes which might impact on peaceful protest by increasing police powers to ‘move on’ demonstrators and protesters. Breaking News: Since we initially posted this item we have been advised that Minister Corbell has asked officials to reinstate the previous provisions in the amending legislation. This is good news and we welcome the decision.

Great work team! Speedy and effective response!


On 9 June 2016, ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell presented the Crimes (Serious and Organised Crime) Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 to the Legislative Assembly. According to the the accompanying explanatory paper, the aim of the amendment is “to provide ACT Policing (ACTP) with the appropriate powers to target and disrupt serious and organised crime, and in particular criminal activities of outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMCGs).

Whilst a number of serious crimes are addressed in the amendment, changes are also proposed to exclusion and police move on powers that will weaken the protections afforded peaceful protest groups. This is set against the worrying trend of many Australian state governments introducing draconian anti-protest laws.

It is therefore critical the ACT Government amend this Bill to ensure that the Territory protects a strong culture of free expression, movement and participation in public life.


The current legislation – Crime Prevention Powers Act 1998 – at Section 4 outlines Police Move-On Powers, which allow the police to issue “move on” notices to individuals and groups of people, and exclude them from a particular area for a particular period. The current Amendment Bill seeks to alter and move these powers into the Crimes (Serious and Organised Crime) Act.

The current legislation provides explicit protections for individuals and civil society groups undertaking protest:

“This section does not apply in relation to a person who, whether in the company of other

people or not, is—

(a)   picketing a place of employment; or

(b)   demonstrating or protesting about a particular issue; or

(c)   speaking, bearing or otherwise identifying with a banner, placard or sign or  

otherwise behaving in a way that is apparently intended to publicise the person’s view about a particular issue.”

In the explanatory statement of the Amendment, the importance of these protections is acknowledged, and it appears to be proposed that the protections will be preserved in the context of the new exclusion powers:

An exclusion direction issued only because a person is engaged in one of these activities, which involve conduct that is closely connected with the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, would not be valid.”

Despite the acknowledgement of the importance of these protections in the explanatory statement, the protections have not been incorporated into Part 9 – Exclusion Powers of the Amendment Bill that was presented to the Assembly on the 9th of June. We are concerned that removing these protections creates a risk that these exclusion powers may be used, intentionally or otherwise, to shut down peaceful pickets, protests and demonstrations in the ACT.  


We recommend that the existing protections for peaceful protest and demonstration be included in the Crimes (Serious and Organised Crime) Legislation Amendment Bill 2016, by including the following provision:

180       Limit of applicability

This section does not apply in relation to a person who, whether in the company of other people or not, is—

(a)     picketing a place of employment; or

(b)     demonstrating or protesting about a particular issue; or

(c)     speaking, bearing or otherwise identifying with a banner, placard or sign or

otherwise behaving in a way that is apparently intended to publicise the person’s view about a particular issue.


To ensure the ACT maintains a healthy balance between police powers and the rights of peaceful protesters it is critical that the current protections, at a minimum, are maintained in the Crimes (Serious and Organised Crime) Legislation Amendment Bill.

Transport – connecting people and places

The Conservation Council has developed election policies in the lead-up to the 15 October 2016 ACT Legislative Assembly election in order to set out some environmental issues for the candidates to consider as they campaign and set out their own policies. Here is our policy: Transport – connecting people and places.


Transport is an essential part of how we live, impacting our environment in many ways. Canberra has a very high rate of car use with nearly 75% of the adult population using the car to get to work. Only 5-7% use the ACTION bus network.

The existing policy Transport for Canberra stimulated some important change but is yet to deliver the transport transformation Canberra needs. We will fall short of 2016 transport targets for public transport. We must do better to meet health, social inclusion, equity and environmental aims. By 2020 over 50% of our greenhouse emissions are projected to be from transport.

Since 2012 the ACT Government has progressed a parking strategy, draft low emissions vehicle strategy and educational program trials and has invested in active travel infrastructure, such as the city loop cycle path. Capital Metro has rolled out planning, tendering and approval of a consortium to build Canberra’s first light rail leg as part of a whole of city network. The first stage of light rail is another element to roll out a transformative integrated transport system that delivers a shift from car dependency. The Conservation Council welcomes this investment in public transport.

However we need a have an integrated transport policy. Canberra residents should have the option to live without a car, connected to employment, services and activities including journeys to local shops, schools and services. It’s time for an integrated transport plan that uses all modes to provide Canberra with environmentally sustainable, socially equitable transport to support a healthy community. The plan must have specific, measurable targets for all forms of travel that deliver a city where living without a car is a viable, attractive option for most residents.

Active travel should be a key part of the Integrated Transport Plan. There should be a place-making approach with the planning hierarchy of walking first, cycling second, public transport third and driving private vehicles last throughout the ACT, in particular within five kilometres of town and group centres.[i]

Walking infrastructure must receive adequate funding. Only two in five Canberra households have direct access to a footpath to take them to school, shops, bus stops or shared cycling/walking paths. Another two households in five have to cross a road to get to their nearest footpath. One household in five doesn’t have a footpath along its street.

Active transport needs to integrate with public transport; for example, all buses and rail have capacity to carry bicycles in ways that do not deter other passenger. Transport systems need to be accessible to people with disability as well as older people and parents who have children in prams. Transport needs to address diverse communities.

Cycling and walking infrastructure should be safe, attractive, quick, convenient and maintained to the same standard as roads and should offer a choice of facility appropriate to the needs and abilities of different riders. An Integrated Transport Plan must remove barriers for people to use public transport for their entire journey, for example maximising the provision of through services and minimising use of, and wait times at interchanges between services. A holistic public transport system requires passengers to interchange between trunk and suburban routes, and adequate planning can ensure services interchange smoothly and quickly. Capital Metro plans should be revised to permit people to transfer between a bus without having to walk between bus and tram platforms and wait for up to 90 seconds at pedestrian signals.

Canberra can be connected to the world through communications technology, without the heavy environmental impacts of travel especially reliance on air travel.

Develop Integrated Transport Plan where living without a car is a viable option

  • A new Integrated Transport Plan: based on key objectives from other core Government policy areas such as health, social inclusion and equity. Transport planning should aim to provide adequate weekday and weekend travel without the need to own a car.
  • Governance: Transport Canberra to employ policy and implementation staff with real world expertise in similar transport change processes where significant modal shift was achieved.
  • ACT Roads: Rename “Roads ACT” to “Streets ACT” and bring functions into Transport Canberra. Manage roads infrastructure more effectively using technology such as lane switching and traffic monitoring.
  • New transport plan to achieve mode shift: 5% of journeys to work by 2020 and 16% by 2026, include modelled initiatives to achieve targets, and include annual interim targets and mechanism for additional measures if required to actually achieve targets.

Achieve mode shift targets

  • Active transport targets: 60% of Canberrans walking, riding or using public transport to travel to work by 2030, walking 10%, cycling 30%, public transport 20%. Targets for travel to school and travel in general should also be developed. Targets should be monitored and additional initiatives developed if they are not being met.
  • Measure non-work travel: establish a mechanism to regularly measure non-work travel. 

Public transport needs to be integrated and expanded

  • Full integration between buses and light rail services: deliver the frequency and coverage of service to enable people to rely on public transport for work and personal travel.
  • Plan service interchanges to minimise wait times and redesign roads network to favour public transport transit times. Convert road lanes to transit lanes, wherever this will reduce public transport delays without increasing general traffic delays.
  • Adequate funding for bus network: Ensure the 1.2 million bus kilometres saved from the first stage of Light Rail are immediately reinvested in the rest of the network.
  • Adequate planning and funding for mass and rapid transit system to all parts of Canberra: next stage of light rail network to be built by 2030 or earlier, and bus transit lanes by 2019 in all locations which reduce bus delays without increasing delays for general traffic.
  • Support and facilitate expansion and extension of Canberra-Sydney bus service, and of similar services to Melbourne and to other destinations.

Active transport for a healthy community and a healthy city

Walking: All people (almost) walk and all journeys have a component of walking

  • Identify and resource priority walking infrastructure, projects and policies. Footpaths need to serve diverse community needs including people with disability as well as older people and parents who have children in prams.
  • Develop a Walking Plan by 30 June 2017 and adequately resource implementation.

Cycling for commuting, recreation, sport and travel

  • Identify and resource priority cycling infrastructure, cost-effective projects and policies: next generation trunk cycle ways having complete separation from vehicles and pedestrians in arterial road corridors with grade-separated crossings of high-speed arterials. Develop local routes for people to cycle to local schools, shops, services and friends

Cars creating less emissions and carrying more passengers per vehicle

  • Complete and release Low Emissions Vehicle Strategy. Support transition of privately owned cars to 100% renewable energy by 2040.
  • Widespread use of transit lanes for cars carrying passengers by providing travel time advantages to cars that carry passengers.
  • Provide drop-off areas that make it easy to carry passengers close to their destinations
  • Review options to allow drivers to pick up and set down passengers at public transport stops.0

Support people to make the change

  • Identify and resource programs to support individual transport behaviour change: Continue education programs for adults and school students in public and active transport, integrate parking policy with mode shift targets, and reduce public transport fare relativities.
  • Consult on ways to meet targets to understand why people make their transport decisions and do not use ‘behaviour change’ approaches that are all stick and no carrot. Ask people what infrastructure changes would make them more likely to travel as car passengers (rather than as drivers), to walk, to cycle or to catch public transport.
  • Reduce speed limits: especially in town centres but also in suburbs for safety and to encourage walkers and cyclists. Use fixed speed cameras in town centres for compliance. Reduce speed limit to 40 km/h along Northbourne Avenue in Civic and in residential streets.

Sustainable transport to reduce greenhouse emissions

  • Public transport powered by 100% renewable energy (bus and light rail) by 2040.
  • Support innovation in renewable energy powered vehicle access other than private ownership: car share programs, Uber, other disruptive technology and innovation.
  • Integrated transport plan to consider overall emissions with planning process to undertake assessment of all emissions associated with transport.

Connecting Canberra to rest of the world

  • High Speed Rail: Advocate for high-speed rail for Australian east coast with link to Canberra.
  • Reduce Freight: Review incentives and disincentives to local production (e.g. tax differences between ACT and NSW) to encourage local production and reduce freight transport. Support and encourage rail freight as an alternative to road freight.
  • Support reduction in reliance on air travel: Facilitate development of innovative connectivity, communications and transport approaches for modern business in Canberra.

[i] ACT Government, Statement of Planning Intent, 2015, p6

Planning – the right things in the right places

Build Canberra as a compact city (current area is 814.2 km²), a liveable city enjoyed by all, a city of choice with a dynamic heart, and a place where natural and cultural heritage are respected and protected.

ACT building standards must be set to meet ACT targets for greenhouse gas emissions reduction.

The ACT should be planning for food security and food sovereignty for the longer term, to take account of the many factors that can affect supply of adequate quantities of nutritious food including population pressures, peak oil and climate change. The ACT and surrounding region have food production potential to meet the needs of the ACT, so planning should be informed by engagement with stakeholders across the region, from business and farmers to local and State governments.

The Planning Strategy adopted 26 June 2012 replaced the Canberra Spatial Plan to provide long-term planning policy and goals to promote orderly and sustainable development, consistent with the ACT’s social, environmental and economic aspirations. A long-term planning strategy is required under the Planning and Development Act 2007 and a review is due in 2017.

The Strategy says: It will guide the planning and development of Canberra to ‘be recognised throughout the world as a truly sustainable and creative city.’

  1. In 2030 Canberra will be a city that makes it easy for people to make more sustainable living choices and has the resourcefulness and capacity to manage change.
  2. In 2030 Canberra will be a city where everyone can take advantage of its network of centres, open spaces and modes of travel to enjoy a sense of wellbeing and participate in a vibrant civic and cultural life.
  3. In 2030 Canberra will be at the centre of an innovative, prosperous region that has established a diverse ‘clean’ economy and has a wide choice in jobs and lifestyles.
  4. In 2030 Canberra will be the ‘capital in the bush’, recognised for the quality of its public places and buildings that reflect its unique climate, character and identity.
  5. In 2030 Canberra will be at the centre of a region that demonstrates the benefits of good stewardship of the land, its resources and the beauty of its rivers, mountains and plains.

We support the existing Planning Strategy noting that many measures have not been implemented resulting in disjunction between the vision and aims of the Strategy and what is implemented through the sum of planning decisions. We need to integrate high level planning policy into operational delivery of planning.

We need a regular, independent report card on delivery of the Planning Strategy in meeting it long-term goals.

Implement key measures of the Planning Strategy

  • Key measures of the Planning Strategy needing to be implemented include:
    • Improve everyone’s mobility and choice of convenient travel by integrating design and investment of various networks and transport systems with the land uses they serve.
    • Investigate a schedule of incentives to reward residential developments that incorporate universal housing, affordable housing and environmental sustainability measures that go beyond best practice
    • Ensure everyone has convenient access to a range of facilities, services and opportunities for social interaction by reinforcing role of group and local centres as community hubs.
    • Value the land and natural resources of the region by working collaboratively to manage urban growth, ensure connectivity and continuity in the natural systems and, where appropriate, conserve agriculturally productive land.

Building Standards – improve and apply

  • Energy Efficiency Ratings: regulate to require higher EER standards for all buildings, residential and commercial, new and existing
  • Energy Efficiency: provide advice and assistance for improving energy efficiency
  • Compliance: Establish a compliance unit to ensure building standards and codes are met.

Food Policy for a resilient future

  • Food Council: Support establishment of ACT Region Food Council – an independent advisory body, funded to drive a regional food plan.
  • Benchmark food production and consumption patterns in ACT and region: Support independent body to undertake a data snapshot of our food system to further inform understanding of regional food consumption, and explore current barriers to regional food production and consumption.
  • Plan for Food Supply: Include food supply as a fundamental planning parameter
  • Create a zoning/ planning layer within ACT Territory Plan for “urban agriculture” for both intensive agriculture and community use: Ensure existing agricultural assets such as the Pialligo Orchards, Tharwa Valley (Paddy’s River) and the Majura Valley are maintained and protected with a master plan for agriculture.
  • Create a register of unleased public land with agriculture potential: List areas with potential for community gardens, agriculture enterprises and other uses, and call for expressions of interest to manage this land

Community Input into Planning Processes

  • Planning Advisor: fund community organisation to employ a community planning advisor who would look at overall planning policies as well as specific Development Applications. A key role would be to advise on best practice planning principles and policies. The advisor would coordinate community responses as well as assist in submissions to government on broad planning issues.

Urban form for high-quality for living next to with nature

  • No new green fields development: draw a line around our urban boundary
  • Increase density through best practice infill development that ensures a high quality of life for all residents, green infrastructure and space for nature throughout the city, and adequate services.
  • Support our bush capital suburbs with gardens, public parks, trees and other green infrastructure. Include measures to incentivise preserving private garden space and reduce house size in total and as a % of block size.

Urban Planning for our transport future

  • Align planning and transport processes: Ensure transport plan references planning strategy and vice versa to ensure further development in Canberra aligns the transport plan and Territory Plan and planning processes
  • Provide public transport services into all new residential developments at the point of initial occupancy, so that public transport is available as soon as residents start to move into new developments.
  • Decrease road footprint: Revise planning regulations and practices, to minimise the width of roads and the amount of space devoted to driveways and by providing off-street rather than on-street parking.

Towards a smarter, sustainable Canberra – governance for sustainability

The Conservation Council has produced policies around our focus areas leading up to the October 2016 ACT election

Sustainability is about meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Australia’s cities and towns of the future must successfully integrate the needs of people, the built and natural environment. Environmentally sustainable development means we can enjoy a high quality of life while we retain and enhance our biodiversity, have a developed infrastructure that gives efficient and equitable access to services and utilities preserve the essentials of the ‘Australian lifestyle’ and contribute to the economic wealth of the nation.

The ACT Government has gone some way to improve the sustainability of its operations and decision-making. The ACT Government has developed some tools to facilitate this however more is needed.

Government policy should achieve sustainability

  • Sustainability Policy: Overarching sustainability policy co-ordination to provide a strategic basis for agency action on sustainability with formal legal requirements for agency compliance and for Directors-General and CEOs to deliver sustainability outcomes
  • Sustainability (TBL) Assessment: sustainability (TBL) assessment of major policy, legislation, programs and projects assessment at beginning of process of key decisions – note:
    • A proper sustainability assessment would include climate change analysis
    • Cabinet consideration of the sustainability impacts at decision point
    • Evaluation post-event to ensure they are delivering key outcomes.
  • Agency Sustainable Procurement: mandatory requirement for agencies to prepare ‘green’ procurement plans including only procuring goods that can be recycled or reused
  • Sustainability Reporting: a clear mandatory sustainability reporting framework that covers both Government progress and community progress on key strategic objectives – i.e. zero net emissions for the ACT as well sustainability reporting analysis of outcomes of major Government expenditure items as requested from time to time by the Legislative Assembly, the Public Accounts Committee or other Committees of the Assembly
  • Independent Sustainability Review: Major review of Government’s sustainability performance by the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment every four years with annual commentary in the Commissioner’s Annual Report
  • Maintain independent role of Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment: The independence of the role is vital to ensure that Government actions do not adversely affect the environment. 

Community consultation and engagement are key to positive outcomes

We support the aims identified by the ACT Government in ensuring greater openness in government and engagement and collaboration across sectors to maximise positive outcomes, and propose policies and initiatives under each aim:

  • Citizen participation to improve the wellbeing of our community’
    • Government and business engagement should ensure the community has a direct say in shaping future developments, especially for planning and development
    • That the government adheres to its Guide to Community Engagement[i] which matches the type of engagement process (inform, consult, involve, collaborate) and associated maximum timeframes (6 weeks, 10, 16, 16 + weeks) with the complexity of the issue. The more participatory processes and the maximum timeframes and timeframes should be the default position, not the shortest – six weeks – as currently applied by ACT Government Directorates
    • The Government should provide a response to the community on all community consultations, or should make the decision that was consulted, within the same timeframe offered to the community for consultation i.e. 8 weeks of consultation followed by Government action within a further 8 weeks
    • Develop a ‘one-stop shop’ approach for citizens seeking to arrange public demonstrations on matter of public interest
    • Utilise advisory groups to implement participatory processes (ref Guide to Community Engagement) through involvement and collaboration with the government for example a Public Transport Users Group.
  • ‘Transparency in process and access to information’
    • Adopt a new Freedom of Information Act based on the default position that most Government information is public information and limit the type of information deemed not to be in the public interest to release
    • Provide genuine access through Freedom of Information by releasing legible, searchable documents in the same colours as the originals
    • Provide that all documents tabled in the Legislative Assembly are simultaneously published on the internet
    • Enable access to all Development Applications through an archive facility rather than removal from the ACTPLA website
    • Publish all Cabinet ‘triple bottom line’ assessments including environmental assessments for all major decisions and developments and for decisions that will have an impact on the environment.
  • ‘Community, business and government working together to deliver integrated responses that benefit all Canberrans’
    • Apply the Social Compact in relations between all Directorates and community organisations[ii]
    • Trial and implement ‘deliberative democracy’ approaches across a range of Government actions and decisions
    • Maintain and enhance the Environment Community Partnerships Program.

[i] ACT Government, Engaging Canberrans – A Guide to community engagement, 2011, p13

[ii] ACT Government, Social Compact – a Relationship Framework between the ACT Government and Community Sector, 2012.