Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens Local Government spokesperson
The Minister for Local Government, Peter Gutwein, attempted to deny his oversight of councils when the Greens questioned him about the Clarence City Council by-law that will shut down peaceful assembly or event in that municipality without a permit.
Not only does Minister Gutwein administer the Local Government Act, but the Tasmanian Parliament has the power to disallow the draconian by-law.
The Clarence City Council Public Places By-Law (No.1 of 2018), in force any day now, bans the organising or participation in an assembly, rally, public speaking or similar activity without the written authority of the Council’s General Manager.
This by-law even bans sporting activities in public areas without a prior permit - even kids having a kick of the footy or playing beach cricket.
Minister Gutwein is responsible for enforcing the Local Government Act and has, in fact, dismissed two councils. How he can claim his hands were tied in relation to the Clarence City Council’s potentially unconstitutional and anti-fun by-law defies belief.
This reactionary by-law has seemingly come off the back of loud community unrest at council’s secretive processes around the Kangaroo Bay and Rosny Hill developments. It has authoritarian overtones and may very well be in breach of the Australian Constitution, which enshrines the public’s right to peaceful assembly and protest.
The Commissioner of Police, Darren Hine, raised serious concerns with the by-law’s provisions during consultation. He suggested the new power to ban a person from a public place may be an overreach that “impinges against people’s civil liberties”.
Commissioner Hine also warned that the by-law didn’t “properly define the operation, scope or limitations of such a strong new power or how its application may be enforced.’ Such strong comments by the Police Commissioner should have been addressed by the Clarence Council, but were not.
Both the Liberals and Labor will be given the opportunity to reverse this draconian by-law in Parliament next week. We hope Mr Gutwein and his Liberal colleagues will accept their responsibility and oversight of Clarence City Council when we bring on our disallowance motion for a vote.