Parramatta RSL bans local council candidate from Climate Commission forum

The Socialist Alliance Western Sydney released the statement below on May 16.

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Parramatta RSL management took the extraordinary step on May 15 of banning John Coleman, a Socialist Alliance candidate for the upcoming Parramatta local council elections, from attending the Climate Commission public forum held on its premises.

Coleman, a Granville resident and campaigner for action on climate change, denounced the move as an “outrageous attack on democratic rights and freedom of speech”.

He said: “While the Climate Commission’s forum was meant to be a place for the local public to air its questions on such an important issue, Parramatta RSL has instead made a mockery of this being a ‘public consultation’ by taking the unilateral decision to ban local residents from entering the meeting.”

Also barred was Fred Fuentes, the convener of the local Socialist Alliance branch, whose office is in Parramatta. Both had booked tickets to attend the meeting.

The official reason given by security at Parramatta RSL for denying entry was that the two had been distributing leaflets and copies of Green Left Weekly on the footpath outside the premises. This was despite the fact that shortly before another person who had been distributing materials was allowed entry.

At no point were either of the two told that the distribution of materials was banned or could result in denial of entry, until security, on orders of the general manager, stopped them entering the building.

The general manager refused requests to come out and discuss the matter, even after being made aware of the fact that Coleman was a candidate in the local council elections.

“This was clearly an attack on freedom of speech and an abuse of its powers in banning people attending a meeting that it was not even involved in organising,” said Fuentes.

“The Climate Commission has some serious questions to ask Parramatta RSL management if it is genuine about its mission of providing information to all citizens.

“How can the Climate Commission be trusted to reach all citizens if it holds its meetings in venues that deny entry to anyone it feels like?”