Brisbane City Council (BCC) has charged Greens BCC councillor Jonathan Sri in connection with a protest in the Queen Street Mall in September 2020.
The lunchtime protest involved approximately four people holding signs rejecting the Cashless Welfare Card in the mall. Sri explained his reasons for holding the sign in a Facebook live video on the day.
Labor’s promise to abolish the Cashless Welfare Card was a popular promise made before the last election.
The BCC has laws restricting political activities in the mall. Some Green Left readers will remember the 1993 free speech campaign when GL and others protested Council’s attempts — then controlled by Labor — to drive all political activity, including GL distribution out of the Mall.
That campaign was partially successful, but the anti-democratic statutes remained, leading to the present situation where all political activity in the mall is essentially banned.
Sri has been charged under the Public Land and Council Assets Local Law 2014 for participating in an unauthorised assembly and displaying advertising material without approval. Each carries a maximum fine of 20 penalty units — approximately $2600 for each charge.
Both charges are an infringement on democratic rights, but the second is particularly ridiculous given that a sign against the Cashless Welfare Card is not commercial advertising.
Even though a few people were involved in the protest, only Sri has been charged.
Sri’s trial was held on June 16, however, the case has been adjourned for an unspecified time for the magistrate to consider judgement.
While Sri cannot comment on this case he told Green Left that “as a general principle, the local law goes too far on impinging residents’ human rights to peaceful assembly and free expression”.
Sri is trying to get the case referred to the Supreme Court on human rights grounds. This is one of the things the magistrate will consider.