Journalist Wendy Bacon reports that Inner West Labor has used their narrow majority to defeat a motion calling for repeal of NSW’s draconian anti-protest laws at the Inner West Council (IWC) meeting last week.
Inner West Councillor and Greens candidate for Balmain Kobi Shetty moved a motion calling for the Mayor Darcy Byrne to write to the Attorney General and Shadow Attorney General calling for the repeal of the laws and an end to heavy handed policing of protestors.
IWC Labor Councillor and Professor of Law Tim Stephens then moved an amendment that removed sections of the motion that called for repeal and reference to ‘heavy handed’ policing. Although supporting the right to protest, he prefers to leave any further consideration of the laws to a ‘statutory review’ that is scheduled to take place in 2024. He said he believed this was the appropriate time when “a judgement can sensibly be made about whether these laws are appropriate or effective or should be retained or repealed.”
All eight Labor councillors voted for Stephen’s amendment with all 5 Greens and 2 Independents voting against it. It was carried 8-7 votes meaning that the motion was passed in a drastically watered down form in which it still supports the right to protest and the 2024 review of the laws which is scheduled to happen in any case.
Civil Liberties Council President Josh Pallas says Labor’s preference for statutory review is “a slap in the face to all protestors to say that they just have to grin and bear the threat posed by these laws for the next two years”.
In response to a question from City Hub about whether he thought a statutory review in 2024 was a sufficient response to problems with the laws, he replied, “Peaceful protest is not a crime, even when it is disruptive. No one should face charges under these laws which threaten democratic participation…These laws should never have passed in the first place, and no amount of time in force will change that. It’s a great shame that the Inner West Council didn’t show the courage in standing up to the NSW government and opposition who supported these laws, in calling for their repeal.”
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Wendy Bacon is a retired Professor of Journalism and is supports the repeal of the anti protest laws and Greens candidates in the NSW election.