Opposition forces AG to change laws to protect business owners from violence

As a result of Opposition scrutiny, Attorney General John Quigley will be forced to close a loophole in his own legislation so that assaults on retail business owners will now be punished to the same degree as assaults on retail workers.

The Opposition supports the Criminal Code Amendment Bill 2024 which proposes to increase the maximum penalty for assaults on retail workers from three years imprisonment to seven years, but queried why the Bill ignored the safety needs of business owners.

“After receiving a briefing on the Bill, it was clear that the Government failed to acknowledge that the risks faced by retail workers are also shared by the owners of those businesses,” Shadow Minister for Justice Tjorn Sibma said.

“For example, this could mean that an offender who assaults a café owner would receive a lower penalty than if they assaulted a barista who works at the same café.

“The disparity in protection arises because under the legislation, the owner is not strictly under the ‘control and direction of the business’ and because they are more likely to be engaged in tasks that are not ordinarily part of the ‘day-to-day operations’ of the business.

“This would obviously be an unfair and perverse outcome – but this is what the poorly drafted Bill would permit.

“Everyone deserves equality of protection in the workplace, not just those who are members of a union.

“It is because this legislation originated from a union campaign rather than a principled application of the law that Mr Quigley has introduced different levels of protection for different classes of victim.”

Responding to parliamentary questions, the Attorney General conceded that the way in which his Bill was drafted cast doubt over the protections available to retail business owners, and that the Bill would need to be amended during debate.

Mr Sibma welcomed the Attorney General’s admission and commitment to closing the loophole but remains cautious until the final changes are confirmed.