NSW bureaucrats have expressed their regret after rangers intervened and asked Yes campaigners to cease handing out flyers while advocating for the Indigenous Voice to parliament in Sydney’s CBD. Civil liberties advocates raised concerns about Placemaking NSW, the authority responsible for managing major public spaces in Sydney, for preventing Yes campaigners from distributing materials about the Voice.
Planning Minister Paul Scully acknowledged that there were two instances where government rangers asked campaigners to stop distributing flyers at Circular Quay and Darling Harbour. Scully stated that Placemaking NSW had admitted their mistake and offered a sincere apology. He emphasized that the NSW government supports the Voice to parliament and encouraged people to vote in favor of it on October 14.
Although Placemaking NSW regulations prohibit the distribution and display of printed materials and advertising in precincts they manage, the intent of these rules is to prevent commercial activities or fundraising, rather than restricting political communication.
Josh Pallas, president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, demanded assurances that all authorized officers, including rangers and police, would refrain from disrupting any referendum campaigners. He also called for urgent revisions to the Placemaking NSW regulations to create an exemption specifically for political communication activities. Pallas stressed that the ability to freely associate, distribute materials, and communicate with others about changes to the Australian Constitution is a fundamental aspect of the democratic system of government, and any actions hindering these rights are undemocratic and a breach of civil liberties.
Placemaking NSW’s chief operating officer, Susan Lee, conveyed to Pallas that the rangers had misunderstood previous instructions. She clarified that there was no issue with distributing referendum materials and provided new guidance to the rangers. She assured Pallas that volunteers would be able to distribute materials in the precincts managed by Placemaking NSW.
While the apology from Placemaking NSW is acknowledged, critics argue that the fact that people needed to complain to clarify the rules is not satisfactory. Green MP for Balmain, Kobi Shetty, joined in the call for changes to the regulations, highlighting the urgent need to safeguard democratic freedoms.
1. What is the Indigenous Voice to parliament in Sydney’s CBD?
The Indigenous Voice to parliament is a proposal aimed at establishing a constitutionally enshrined representative body to provide advice and influence on matters affecting Australia’s Indigenous population.
2. What were the incidents involving Yes campaigners?
Yes campaigners advocating for the Indigenous Voice to parliament were ordered to stop distributing flyers in Sydney’s Circular Quay and Darling Harbour by government rangers.
3. Why did Placemaking NSW apologize?
Placemaking NSW apologized because their rangers mistakenly instructed Yes campaigners to halt the distribution of referendum materials. It was acknowledged that campaigning for the Indigenous Voice is a legitimate form of political communication.
4. What changes are being called for?
Civil liberties advocates and politicians are urging amendments to the Placemaking NSW regulations to exempt activities that constitute political communication, ensuring democratic freedoms are protected.
5. When is the vote for the Indigenous Voice to parliament?
The vote for the Indigenous Voice to parliament is scheduled for October 14.