Should Byron Council get involved in the fight to bring Wikileaks founder Julian Assange home to Australia or stick to fixing potholes?
The answer at last week’s full Council meeting was a nearly unanimous ‘Yes’ to entering the arena on Assange.
Despite the protestations of Councillor Alan Hunter that the issue was ‘not our paddock’, councillors voted to write to the Foreign Affairs Minister demanding action – or at least to get Council staff to do so.
They also voted to write to all local state and federal representatives asking them to either join or support the Bring Assange Home Parliamentary Group, which is currently made up of 11 MPs from across party lines.
‘We can’t let our freedoms and our rights be eroded like this,’ said Deputy Mayor Sarah Ndiaye, who moved the Assange motion.
‘Julian is not the only one [being persecuted] but he is being held up as a poster boy. They are sending the message “this is what happens when you speak up”.
‘We need to do something, but the Australian government has been doing bugger all. This is a notice of motion to say enough is enough.’
But Councillor Alan Hunter argued that getting involved in the Assange fight was both futile and a waste of time.
‘We’ve got far too many potholes, far too many parking issues, and far too many other things to deal with to be wasting time on getting involved in this,’ Cr Hunter said.
‘We’re better off balancing our budget.
‘This [motion] isn’t going to make a rat’s arse of a difference.’
Cr Hunter went on to make the point that Council itself kept multiple documents from the public eye each month and had good reasons to do so.
‘This guy published documents that had huge ramifications for people’s lives knowing that they did so. I don’t agree that he is an innocent victim in all of this.’
In response to this, Cr Ndiaye said that the motion would not take up any staff time, Council resources, nor would it cost anything.
♦ Read more: The ‘sadistic’ trial of Julian Assange