Dealing with Demonstrations

The law of public protest and its enforcement

By Roger Douglas


This book explores the laws relating to political demonstrations. It is comprehensive in its coverage, and analyses relevant law in the Commonwealth and each of the States and Territories:

  • the degree to which laws impinging on demonstrations are subject to the implied constitutional freedoms enjoyed by other forms of political communications;
  • laws applicable to riots, unlawful assemblies, and to peaceful demonstrations;
  • the ‘public order’ offences with which demonstrators are usually charged although, on their face, they have nothing to do with the collective, communicative, or coercive aspects of the demonstration; 
  • police powers in relation to demonstrations.

Dealing with Demonstrations has been written with a view to assisting those with a direct interest in knowing the nature of ’demonstration law’, but it may also be read as a case-study of the ambivalent relationships between liberal democratic governments and their adversaries. It treats laws as reflecting both the commitment of Australian governments to political liberalism, and their unease about political conduct which poses even symbolic threats to their legitimacy. Courts tolerate peaceful, communicative demonstrations, but show considerable unease when demonstrations threaten ‘order’.

But, Douglas argues, laws and their enforcement reflect not only what governments would like to achieve, but also what they can achieve, and while laws constrain demonstrators, demonstrators are able to constrain governments.


Published 17 May 2004
Publisher The Federation Press
ISBN 9781862874879
Australian RRP $49.50
International Price $45.00