Geelong Councillor challenges council CEO on Palestine motion ruling

November 17, 2023
Councillor Sarah Hathway at Palestine rally. Photo: Matt Hrkac

City of Greater Geelong Councillor Sarah Hathway has been prevented from tabling a motion calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza war.

Hathway informed council on November 14 about her motion, and was prepared to work with council officers. Shortly afterwards, she was told that due to the OHS concerns for Council staff, councillors and the public of “escalating protests and growing civil unrest” she would not be allowed to move any motion.

The Windermere Ward, where Hathway has been elected, includes many Arab-Australians who have been involved in protesting for peace.

Hathway, a member of Socialist Alliance, told Green Left she was told by the council CEO that her motion was unacceptable because it may be “prejudicial to any person or Council”.

Given that the war is “a pressing issue” for so many, Hathway believes council has a responsibility to at least talk about it.

“As a Windermere Ward councillor, I represent people in the community who are right now feeling very impacted and devastated about what is going on in Gaza.”

Hathway understood that the CEO believes that debating a motion would put Council staff, councillors and the community at risk.

“But there have already been two peaceful demonstrations in support of a Gaza ceasefire in Geelong,” Hathway said. “There has also been two peaceful civil disobedience actions outside [defence minister] Richard Marles’ office. No-one was put at risk.”

Hathway said she was concerned about “an undeclared political agenda”.

“Not so long ago, this council lit up City Hall in Ukrainian flag colours. It made statements of support for the national rights of Ukrainians after Russia’s invasion.

“At no time was there any suggestion that this would lead to community violence.

“Yet, when I and another councillor move to put up motions which mean council will discuss the Israel-Gaza conflict – just as Canterbury-Bankstown Council in Sydney and Meri-bek Council in Melbourne have done — we’re ruled out of order.”

Hathway asked: “Don’t the concerns and anguish of people in my ward — many of whom are Palestinians, Muslims and refugees — matter?

“Why even have council elections when we can’t raise such important issues? Who exactly is in charge: elected councillors or unelected officials?”

[Get in touch to support Councillor Hathway here.]

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