Almost 90 years ago during the Great Depression, begging was made illegal in Tasmania. It still is

 In Home News Section, Home Slider Section, Uncategorized

In the midst of the Great Depression a law was introduced in Tasmania to make begging illegal. It still stands today.

Now a decade-long push to decriminalise begging in Tasmania could finally be realised with the Greens set to test the state’s colourful new parliament.

Under Tasmania’s Police Offences act (1935) it is illegal to “beg or expose wounds or deformities” in an attempt to get money, and it comes with a maximum penalty of $975 or up to six months’ imprisonment.

“It’s primitive,” Tasmanian president of the Australian Lawyers Alliance Rowena Macdonald said.

“It’s about time we moved into the 21st century and started to tackle social issues in a rational, mature and modern way.”

It’s a sentiment the Greens agree with.

They will table a bill in parliament on Wednesday to try to repeal the offence.

“It should not be a crime to ask for help,” Greens police spokesperson Tabatha Badger said.

“Begging was made a crime in 1935 during the Great Depression. It has no place to still be criminalised in a modern and empathetic Tasmania.

“We know people are still being charged or threatened under the begging legislation. This should not be happening, people should be able to peacefully ask for help publicly.”

Begging bill previously introduced

The Greens have made several attempts over the years to decriminalise begging — the most recent in November last year.

While they’ve previously found support in Labor, they’ve been unable to persuade the Liberal Government to back their version of the bill, despite the government promising to remove it as an offence in June 2019.

“The Hodgman Liberal government is constantly working to prevent situations where people feel the need to beg in the first place and removing begging as an offence helps us get the balance right,” then-police minister Michael Ferguson said in 2019.

The government did actually introduce a bill to decriminalise begging and expand police powers in 2019.

It passed both houses of Parliament, but lapsed when parliament prorogued for an early election in May 2021.

In a statement, current police minister Felix Ellis said the government remains supportive of repealing the offence of begging.

He said the government “considers that it is necessary” police have the “authority to move people on in the rare occasions they are engaging in intimidating or harassing behaviour”.

Mr Ellis also said the public must not be deterred from “patronising businesses or public facilities such as toilets”.

Vote may come down to JLN

But the mixed bag of politicians that this year’s state election turned up means the support of the government is not essential for the push to pass.

The Greens themselves hold five seats. Meaning they need to win over another 13 MPs to pass the bill.

Labor’s nine MPs on the floor of the house will go a long way, with police spokesperson Jen Butler saying the party is still committed to decriminalising begging.

“We have previously supported attempts to repeal these unfair laws,” Ms Butler said.

“The spotlight is on the Liberal government now who have run out of excuses for why they haven’t progressed this reform.

“At a time when the rising cost of living has made things incredibly difficult for so many Tasmanians, it should not be a crime to be poor.”

The three independents — Craig Garland, David O’Byrne and Kristie Johnston — also say they are broadly supportive of the concept.

“Begging is an antiquated offence which effectively criminalises poverty and targets those most vulnerable in our community: the homeless, those experience chronic poverty or disadvantage,” Ms Johnston said.

“It has no place in a just society.

“Our efforts should be focused on tackling the causes of poverty not the people experiencing it. I will be supporting the Greens bill to decriminalise begging.”

It may mean the deciding vote comes down to the three Jacqui Lambie Network (JLN) MPs.

The JLN MPs did not respond to the ABC’s request for comment.

The Greens insist police will have enough powers if begging is decriminalised.

“The bill still permits police to remove people if they’re being a nuisance or obstructing other members of the public of vehicles,” Ms Badger said.

If you have a general news tip or feedback, please contact us via this form

By state political reporter Lucy MacDonald (Original ABC Article)