A federal election candidate blocked from erecting campaign signs is taking the Victorian council behind the ban to court.
Former ABC journalist Zoe Daniel is running as an independent candidate in the Melbourne seat of Goldstein, taking on Liberal MP Tim Wilson.
Last week, Mr Wilson sent out an email requesting people dob in members of the community who are displaying Ms Daniel’s campaign signs, because he said they were in breach of local planning rules.
Although the federal election has not yet been called, initially Bayside City Council said planning provisions allowed for political signage after February 21.
It said the signs could be displayed for a total of three months, or 14 days after the election, whichever is sooner.
However, on Friday the council reversed its decision, after receiving Australian Electoral Commission advice on the timing of the federal election.
“The AEC has advised that there is a possibility of separate elections for the two houses of the Australian parliament, with the latest possible date for a Senate election being 21 May 2022 and the latest possible date for a House of Representatives election being 3 September 2022,” it said.
The council reiterated state bylaws that signs must not be displayed longer than 14 days after an event or for three months, whichever was sooner.
“Based on this above, any sign associated with a House of Representative candidate would be unlawfully erected if: No election has been called; or the sign is erected prior to 3 June 2022.” the council said.
Ms Daniel’s campaign director Keith Badger has launched action in Victoria’s Supreme Court, arguing the council has interpreted the law incorrectly and that its ruling is inconsistent with neighbouring councils.
In court documents filed on Wednesday, Mr Badger said the council’s interpretation “would be contrary to the implied freedom of political communication” and the council’s view was also contrary to its previous advice.
Mr Badger is seeking an injunction to stop the council from issuing fines or commencing criminal proceedings against landowners who have erected signs within the council area
On March 1 the council sent letters to people, including Mr Badger, who had erected Zoe Daniel signs on their properties, the documents stated.
Mr Badger claimed the council threatened to fine those who had erected the signs if they were not taken down “within two days” of the letter.
“If all Zoe signs are removed or covered, this could have a potentially significant impact on the campaign,” the court document said.
Mr Wilson said his campaign was complying with the council’s ruling and his supporters were not erecting signs as they risked being fined.
“Any candidate with integrity would not seek political reward by knowingly encouraging their supporters to break the law – exposing each household to a fine of nearly $1000,” he said.
Bayside Council said it would not comment further to its February 25 statement.