Pests are treating us like mugs

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Editorial Herald Sun: Pests are treating us like mugs. May 8, 2014

Selfish pests who disrupted the Melbourne CBD for more than a week during the Occupy Melbourne protest have thrown democracy back in the face of all Victorians.

It is Victorians who will almost certainly have to pay the massive costs associated with the clean-up and the legal fees involved.

Not only will taxpayers have to pick up the bill, but for some it will be a double hit. Taxpayers who are also ratepayers in the City of Melbourne are the biggest bunnies.

The likelihood of protesters paying for their failed court action is virtually non-existent. Activists sued the State Government and Melbourne City Council, claiming the arrest and eviction of Occupy Melbourne protesters was illegal. But, as revealed in FOI documents obtained by the Herald Sun, the cost likely to fall back on the authorities they sued is a high one. It was not as if Occupy Melbourne was motivated by anything more than being part of similar movements in other world cities to protest divisions between rich and poor.

It quickly became a magnet for people who were once called anarchists, seeking to overthrow governments and society in general but with no real alternative in mind.

The City of Melbourne has paid more than $554,00 to its lawyers in defending the action and had to spend $71,000 on emergency barricades around the City Square and in cleaning up the area, which included removing graffiti.

Like some of his ratepayers, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle is doubly outraged. Not only has the council had to use ratepayer funds to defend legal action that failed but money, which would have been set aside in the council’s budget for community projects, has had to be diverted.

Police costs are likely to be double those of council, pushing the eventual bill to more than $1.5 million and it may not end there.

The protesters failed to prove in the Federal Court that police acted unlawfully in arresting almost 100 people and breaking up the Occupy Melbourne protest.

Not satisfied with that, one of the protesters has filed an appeal to the Full Federal Court. This will see involve further legal costs for Melbourne City Council and for the protesters who may find themselves with another bill that they are unlikely to pay.

Victorians will ask where this is likely to end and the answer, unfortunately, is with them. Then there is the question of further public funds soaked up by the Fitzroy Legal Service and the Human Rights Law Centre, which represented the protesters and which are both partly government funded.

The Herald Sun has already pointed to the misuse of public money by the Fitzroy Legal Service in representing protesters disrupting work at the East West Link site. This Left-wing dominated group of lawyers and activists is spending taxpayer dollars in defending professional agitators, who have nothing to do with the issues that should be taking the attention of public lawyers.

The right to protest is enshrined in law, but it must be conducted peacefully. Violence, as happened when protesters defied police at Occupy Melbourne is unacceptable.

Police asked demonstrators to move on after they pitched makeshift tents, turning the centre of the city into a slum.

They were allowed every opportunity to voice their muddled opinions, but became a rabble without any recognisable cause. Now the community is to foot the bill.

That calls for a protest.

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