Federal Independent candidate Zoe Daniel has won a Supreme Court case overturning a ban on her supporters putting up political signs in their front yards after Liberal MP Tim Wilson raised concerns with a Melbourne suburban council.
The Bayside City Council responded to Mr Wilson’s concerns by issuing a ban on political signs in front gardens in late February, using its interpretation of planning laws to threaten residents who showed them a $ 909 fine.
Judge John Dixon ruled Wednesday morning that it does not break planning laws to put up a sign before a federal election was called. And he ruled that Bayside City Council must not issue fines or enforce legal action against residents who have put up a sign in support of a political candidate.
A few days before the ban was passed, Mr. Wilson, the sitting MP in Goldstein’s seat, sent an email to supporters asking them to tell him the address of any property in the municipality’s area with a sign supporting Mrs Daniel.
Mrs Daniel’s campaign manager took the Bayside City Council to the Supreme Court to challenge the sign ban.
Judge Dixon ordered the Council to pay the costs of Mrs Daniel’s team. The cost of Bayside defending its sign ban will rise to tens of thousands of dollars.
The council had relied on state planning laws – and misunderstood them, according to Planning Minister Richard Wynne – to rule that political signs were not allowed to be displayed in the front yard of homes.
Earlier this month, Mr Wynne declined to comment specifically on the sign ban because it was before the Supreme Court. But he said state planning laws were “clear” and that political signage was allowed.