A divided Sydney City Council on October 29 renewed News Corps' contentious newspaper distribution license with the Lord Mayor Clover Moore's Community Independent Team split down the middle.
Community Independents John McInerney and Robyn Kemmis joined Labor's Verity Firth and the Greens' Chris Harris in voting against the 18-month distribution license (DA) for the Murdoch-owned mX. Councillor Marcelle Hoff was absent from the vote on the mX development application. ALP councillors Tony Pooley and Michael Lee split with Firth, and the lone Liberal, Shayne Mallard, a card-carrying member of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, voted against free speech.
Moore cast her vote in support of regulating newspaper distribution five weeks after she called for a Charter of Human Rights in the NSW State Parliament in which she said, "Australia is the only democratic nation in the world without a legal instrument to protect human rights … [T]he widespread feeling is that civil rights are being eroded."
A basic tenet of a Charter of Human Rights would be the protection of free speech and a free press.
At the meeting, McInerney foreshadowed an alternative motion, which would have deferred a final decision on the News Corp DA until council had made a decision on the introduction of news racks and had evaluated the impact of allowing mX spruikers to shove newspapers into pedestrians' hands.
Moore blocked McInerney's alternative motion. In response to McInerney's concerns, council CEO Monica Barone stated that within several months an outside consultant should be able to provide council with a report on the feasibility of news boxes with a six-month trial possible by early next year.
[Lawrence Gibbins is the editor of City Hub.]