The Victorian Labor party has accused Darebin city council of removing candidate billboards dubbing the act “a politically motivated attack from a Greens-dominated council”.
Kat Theophanous is up against Greens candidate Campbell Gome for the seat of Northcote, is pushing “for justice” by taking the matter to the supreme court.
It was alleged that eight large billboards belonging to Theophanous have been removed from private properties by the council without the campaign’s knowledge. Following an investigation Theophanous’ team found that the signs had been taken to the tip and two had been destroyed. A significant financial damage, given that each billboard costs up to $1,163 to create and up to $500 to install.
“It is appalling that Darebin Council has sought to interfere in the democratic process by unlawfully removing Labor signs from private property, ” said Kat Theophanous to Neos Kosmos
She added that the Darebin Council “has a lot of questions to answer to residents of Darebin.”
“They need to explain who requested and authorised the removal of these signs, why it was done in the dead of night with no prior warning and no subsequent explanation. And why it took a Victoria Police investigation and an injunction in the Supreme Court before they fessed up,” Theophanous told Neos Kosmos.
Theophanous labeled the act “a sad and pathetic attempt to interfere in the democratic process.”
“I’ve spent the last four years working hard for my community and standing up for them when Council has let us down and I remain focused on doing what matters for the people of Northcote – delivering the infrastructure, services and reforms locals need for a brighter future,” the Member for Northcote told Neos Kosmos.
Darebin council consists of three Labor, three Greens and three independent councillors, although Labor has argued it is “Greens-dominated” as some independent councillors consistently vote with the minor party.
A spokesperson from the council talking to The Guardian councillors had nothing to do with signage in the area.
“The application of local laws to manage signage in the municipality is an operational matter and as such, councillors have no input into how and when the local law is enforced by officers of Darebin city council,” the spokesperson said.
Victorian Greens leader, Samantha Ratnam, denied the party requested the council to remove the signs and accused Labor of fabricating the story.
“When Labor gets desperate, they get dirty. From what I know of what’s occurred, it’s a matter for the council and I urge all candidates and parties to abide by local laws,” Ms Ratnam said.
Kat Theophanous was not successful though as her legal challenge against Darebin Council was dismissed after the council promised that her billboards would be left alone.
Kat Theophanous snatched Northcote from the Greens in 2018, with on a 1.7 per cent margin .
The case was dismissed on Tuesday, shortly before a hearing in the case was due to take place, after a promise by Darebin City Council not to remove signs on four private properties.
Court orders made by Justice Timothy Ginnane revealed the council gave an undertaking not to interfere with or remove signs promoting Ms Theophanous before December 10.
The signs were at the Aboriginal Advancement League, Fronditha Aged Care, and at two Greek and Bulgarian orthodox churches.
The judge also ordered that Ms Theophanous remove the signs by 4pm on December 10.