Dear Mayor and Councillors,
Hepburn Shire has a history of progressive, informed and innovative policy-making. In this spirit, the Local Law No.2 set of draft laws are not only Draconian, unenforceable, impractical and often incompetently-worded, but also a backwards step for our community and a wasted opportunity for our changing country.
Other submissions have already thoroughly explored and explained the disastrous consequences of certain proposed laws, including (but not limited to):
Local Law 2.2 – Removing Anything from a Road (a necessary part of safe country driving)
Local Law 2.5 – Festivals, Carnivals and Circuses (inclusion of the word ‘event’ prohibits all gatherings)
Local Law 2.12 – Outdoor Eating Facilities (a harmless facet of healthy community building)
Local Law 2.15 – Trading in a Public Place (a valuable part of our country lifestyle and future economy)
Local Law 2.17 – Advertising signs (a necessary part of event promotion)
Local Law 2.18 – Firewood Collection (a necessary part of rural safety)
Local Law 4.2.2 – Camping on One’s Land (a necessity in many low-income situations)
Local Law 4.7 – Scavenging (a healthy and necessary part of a low-income, recycling-conscious community)
and also, the vague and subjective definitions of ‘event’ and ‘public place’ (definitions which make most social gatherings prosecutable)
These specific examples, as just the tip of an iceberg, are alarming enough, but it’s impossible to avoid considering the thinking behind Local Law No.2
* from a sceptical angle, these laws could be considered a guileless attempt to protect Council from litigation, at the apparently insignificant cost of severely curtailing our community’s freedom. If so, as noted in the recent community forum, it’s ironic that these stricter laws are likely to increase the Council’s liability – but I’m certain this isn’t common knowledge.
* from a more cynical angle, they could be seen as an attempt to empower the local government to threaten, intimidate and punish all dissent, at their – or any council officer’s – discretion. Furthermore, with so many normal, practical activities becoming prohibited, a Council Officer with a grudge would have multiple opportunities to harass and prosecute any individual they so choose.
As they stand, these laws are at very least inept, misguided and self-defeating. At worst, they are an attack on our right to gather, our right to protest, our right to hold the council and others accountable, and our basic freedom as Australians.
I implore you to abandon these draft laws as they currently stand and engage the community in devising a series of laws which not only meet the needs and culture of the Hepburn Shire community, but also set a benchmark for all local governments in these matters of increasing importance for Australia and the warming world.
I would like to speak to this submission at the meeting on 16 December.