Last updated 29 August 2016
Section 5(1) of the Peaceful Assembly Act 1992 (Qld) (Peaceful Assembly Act) provides that a person has a right to assemble peacefully with others in a public place.
The right to peaceful assembly is only subject to such restrictions as are necessary and reasonable in the interests of public safety, public order and the protection of the rights and freedoms of other persons, such as the rights of members of the public to enjoy the natural environment and the right to carry on business (s 5(2) Peaceful Assembly Act).
A public assembly is an assembly held in a public place, whether or not the assembly is held at a particular place or moves around. A public place is any place open to or used by the public as of right, and any place that is currently open to the public, either on the payment of money or by the express or implied consent of the owner or occupier. A public place can also be a road or footpath.
Requirements for a lawful public assembly or procession
In order to lawfully hold a public assembly or procession, the organiser of the proposed assembly must give a written notice of intention to a police station in the police district where the public assembly is sought to be held. A local authority, such as the Brisbane City Council, must also be provided with an assembly notice if the proposed assembly or procession is to be held in or pass through any public place under the control of the local authority (e.g. a park, square or mall (s 8 Peaceful Assembly Act)). The written notice must be addressed to the Commissioner of Police and, if necessary, the relevant local authority and must be signed by the organiser (s 9(1) Peaceful Assembly Act).
The notice must contain a number of details, such as the proposed date, time and place of the proposed assembly, the proposed route of the procession (if any), the length and time of the proposed procession or assembly and the expected number of participants (s 9(2) Peaceful Assembly Act).
Copies of the required notice are available from police stations.
A proposed assembly will become an authorised public assembly if the organiser receives a notice of permission from the Commissioner of Police, the local authority or the owner or occupier of the place where the public assembly is proposed to be held (ss 7, 10 Peaceful Assembly Act).
The commissioner or the local authority has no power to refuse to authorise the holding of the assembly, but they can impose conditions on the holding of a public assembly in limited circumstances. The conditions can relate only to matters such as concerns of public safety, maintaining public order, the protection of rights and freedoms of other persons and the payment of clean-up costs that may result from the holding of the assembly. It can also relate to the recognition of any inherent environmental or cultural sensitivity of the place of assembly or the application to the place of assembly of any resource management practice of a delicate nature (s 11(3) Peaceful Assembly Act). A condition cannot be specified unless the organiser has agreed to the condition in writing (s 11(2)(b) Peaceful Assembly Act).
Application for an order prohibiting an assembly
The Commissioner of Police or a local authority can apply to a magistrate for an order refusing to authorise the assembly. Such an application must be made not less than five business days before the day proposed for the assembly (s 12 Peaceful Assembly Act). The application can only be made after a mediation session has been held in an attempt to reconcile any conflicts between the commissioner or the local authority and the public assembly organiser (s 13 Peaceful Assembly Act).
The court can refuse authorisation for the assembly or specify conditions for the holding of the assembly.
Application for an order allowing an assembly
If an assembly notice has been given less than five business days before the proposed date for the holding of the assembly, the organiser of a proposed assembly may apply to a Magistrates Court for an order to authorise the assembly (s 14(1) Peaceful Assembly Act). Such an application may only be made if the organiser has not received permission to hold the assembly (s 15(1) Peaceful Assembly Act).
An organiser cannot apply for a magistrate’s order unless a mediation session has been held.
In hearing an application under ss 12 or 14 of the Peaceful Assembly Act, the magistrate must have regard to the objects of the Act, hear it with the greatest possible speed and must conduct the proceeding with as little formality and technicality as possible (s 16(2) Peaceful Assembly Act). Each party to the application is to bear their own costs of the proceeding, regardless of the outcome.