An independent federal election candidate has won her Supreme Court bid to allow residents of Melbourne’s leafy bayside suburbs to display campaign signs in their gardens and on front fences.
The row erupted earlier this month when Liberal MP Tim Wilson sent out an email requesting people dob in members of the community who were displaying campaign signs for former ABC reporter and The New Daily columnist Zoe Daniel.
Ms Daniel is running against Mr Wilson in the federal lower house seat of Goldstein.
Mr Wilson said his opponent’s campaign signs breached local planning rules because a date is yet to be set for the federal election.
Bayside City Council initially ruled that planning provisions allowed for political signs to be displayed on private property after February 21. It said the signs could be displayed for up to three months, or 14 days after the election, whichever was sooner.
However, the council changed its mind after receiving advice from the Australian Electoral Commission on the timing of the federal election.
The AEC said it was possible to hold separate elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives. The latest possible date for a Senate election is May 21, while it is September 3 for the lower house.
“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 earlier this month.
The possibility of separate elections being called, while constitutionally legal, is considered highly unlikely.
Ms Daniel’s campaign manager, Keith Badger, went to Victoria’s Supreme Court to confirm if her election signs were allowed under Bayside’s planning scheme.
On Wednesday, Justice John Dixon ruled the corflutes could be displayed but only for three months and not for more than 14 days after the election.
The election was an event, regardless of whether a writ had been issued by the Governor-General, he said.
Ms Daniel tweeted her reaction to the ruling:
“I am pleased to have clarity from the Supreme Court just now, confirming that our campaign signs are legal,” she wrote.
“For those of our supporters who have signs up, thank you. For those who have been waiting for the judgement, you are free to put your signs up. Onward.”
Justice Dixon also issued an injunction stopping Bayside City Council from issuing fines or beginning enforcement proceedings unless the signs were displayed for more than three months, or for more than 14 days after the election.
He ruled that costs in the case should be paid by the council.
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