A police complaint has been lodged against Byron Shire Cr Rose Wanchap after she threw a pair of shoes at a member of the public during last Thursday’s council meeting.
Veteran council watcher and Wanchap objector Jim Beatson was sitting in the gallery when the target of his approbation removed her shoes and threw them in his direction, narrowly missing him and another member of the public.
Mr Beatson has spent the months since Cr Wanchap’s defection from the Greens party, on whose ticket she was elected, calling for her resignation – including loudly from the public gallery during council meetings.
In his complaint to police Mr Beatson says, ‘For almost an hour I sat silently watched in disbelief as cries of protest erupted from the gallery as the five majority councillors (Wanchap, Ibrahan, Woods, Cubis and Hunter) made it clear that they would allow consideration of increasing the height of buildings in a section of Byron Bay’s CBD without public consultation and, later, that they would initially spend up to a million dollars on placing a rock wall at the Belongil spit.’
‘As the crescendo of gallery interjections increased, I called out, twice, that these votes on council [were only possible] because of Cr Wanchap’s defection. I exclaimed “Rose received only 31 personal votes” and had only been elected as result of receiving 3,448 Greens votes,’ Mr Beatson’s complaint continues.
‘At that point she took off a shoe stood up and threw the shoe with force at me. She missed. Within several seconds she then threw her other shoe at me again in great anger and with as much force as she could muster hitting the armrest between the person sitting next to me, Peter Gough, and myself.
‘Regardless of the sex of the councillor seeking to physically assault me, no councillor or any other person has the right to make a physical attack on anyone either at council or anywhere,’ the complaint reads.
Code of Conduct
The incident, which was covered by a local TV station, could also be the subject of a Code of Conduct complaint, after at least one Byron Shire Councillor declined to rule out the possibility.
Cr Duncan Dey told Echonetdaily, however, that ‘verbal violence and legal, accusatory-style interrogation by some councillors [in] questions to Cate Coorey was far more violent than the shoe-throwing incident.
But Cr Dey said he would ‘ask staff how bad the behavior has to get before it becomes a matter for a complaint under council’s Code of Conduct (COC).’
He added that the COC ‘is a very long document and is underwritten by the Local Government Act,’ implying that complaints under the COC should not be instigated lightly.
Neverthless, he told Echonetdaily, ‘I’m glad it’s been raised.’
But he said he did not want ‘the Rose issue to distract from what’s going on in council. What’s happening with these issues is despicable. I don’t want the sideshow distracting from those.’
He admitted, however, that the Greens had made ‘ a mistake preselecting her.’