Complaints prompt new review of signage laws

ELECTION signs that linger after the polls shut, have been placed dangerously or are nailed to innocent trees are in Vincent council’s sights.

The council is to take a look at its current signage laws and how staff handle rule-breakers, after councillor Joanne Fotakis said there had been a surge of complaints about signs being slathered across the city during October’s election.

There are more than 20 council rules governing election signs, which must be freestanding, at least 30m from an intersection, and must be taken down within 24 hours of the poll closing.

Cr Fotakis (who was not up for election this year) said at the November 12 meeting that she’d heard “a lot of concerns expressed about signs being adhered to existing signposts, many of them traffic or wayfinding signposts, and concerns about the potential safety risk especially with distracted drivers”.

She said people were “certainly upset about signs being adhered to trees, and about the lack of respect that some community members felt that showed.”

Some signs are still hanging around more than three weeks after polling day.

“It’s not my intention to propose a prohibition on election signage … there’s been enough high court and supreme court decisions pointing to the implied freedom of communication that exists under the constitution in relation to political and government matters,” Cr Fotakis said.

But she reckons it’s a good time to review where signs are allowed to be placed in the public realm.

Council staff are in the midst of writing a new version of Vincent’s Local Government Property Local Law, a broad tome which covers everything from shooting a bow and arrow in a public park to the $100 fine you can get for going into a pool “whilst unclean or suffering from a contagious disease”.

The existing wording on election signs is as flimsy as corflute, and under a strict interpretation election signs are exempt from most of the fines that would leave a commercial spruiker’s wallet $100 lighter. 

After October’s election, Vincent rangers collected improperly placed signs and gave them back to candidates.

The whole local law is currently being rewritten from scratch, but a now-scrapped draft from earlier this year proposed a $250 fine for election sign breaches to keep candidates in line. 

The new draft will be ready for councillors to peruse by June 2020.

by DAVID BELL

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