Activist councillor attacked for protesting

Issue 

On 22 February, Newcastle Greens councillor Michael Osborne received a notice of a "code of conduct" complaint, because he'd taken part in a protest.

He attended a December 21 protest against the United Nations Copenhagen climate summit's failure to come up with adequate climate plans. Twenty-three protesters, including an 86-year-old, were arrested and charged.

Osborne was not given a copy of the complaint. The notice simply outlined "key points", including: "Of significance is a quote in the Newcastle Herald where you allegedly stated that breaking the law 'is setting an example' and you advocate other elected representatives to do the same."

Osborne told Green Left Weekly his reported comments were misquoted — either in the letter, or in the complaint.

His comment was in response to media questions about elected representatives taking part in political actions. Osborne said it was a "gross misrepresentation to take my comments on non-violent civil disobedience to imply I was referring in general to breaking the law".

He has since received a copy of the complaint. He said it should have been dismissed.

"This complaint is an abuse of the code of conduct. It attempts to stifle basic rights of citizenship, imposes an unnecessary cost on Newcastle ratepayers, costs councillors and the council valuable time, and risks bringing the code of conduct itself, and those who misuse it in this way, into disrepute."

A council officer will write a report to present to council in April, where it will be voted on by councillors, including Osborne.

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