Over the past few weeks, we’ve been sitting and waiting for the next iteration of failure demonstrations from the far-right in Australia. Current forerunner of that scene is undoubtedly the United Patriots Front.
After a dismal turnout to their July 18 rally, the UPF are finding it seemingly harder to claim ‘victory’ in the tatters of their past demonstrations. The latest attempt at salvation was latching themselves onto American bigot Jon Ritzheimer.
Ritzheimer (Ritzcracker) runs an anti-Islamic, extremist following out of Arizona, USA. Shermon Burgess, our own Australian resident bigot, was left looking for a cause to adhere to in August after a likely realisation that his divisive and non-unifying attitude was actually causing more harm to his movement than good. He found his cause, and stuck to Ritzheimer. The deeply entrenched misunderstanding of Australian law amongst our nation’s bigots was on full display, with people believing that we have a Second Amendment right to bear arms. Ritzheimer pledged to rally at his local mosque (and encouraged others to do so at their local mosque) and to bring their firearms, in case they needed ‘defending’. I take issue with the word ‘defend’ being used in a provocative situation, but then again, Ritzheimer later had a whinge about being tired of being on the ‘defensive’ and wanting to be on the ‘offensive’. Quite literally, some scary shit. It seemed the general population in Australia somewhat agreed.
But, the UPF, now having a date of October 10 to muster up 60 odd people spread across hundreds of mosques in Australia (I see an issue there – do you?) was seemingly too far away to keep them satisfied. So, left wondering, where could they ‘demonstrate’ in the interim?
On August 5, VCAT handed down their decision to approve the proposed mosque in Bendigo, VIC. The case was high profile enough to earn itself a ‘red dot’ on the VCAT register.
- In summary, the Tribunal found:
- (1) no evidence of procedural fairness being denied to the group applicants. Rather, the Tribunal has afforded the group applicants every opportunity to prepare and present their case including lengthy adjournments of the proceeding in order to obtain expert evidence;
- (2) no evidence of any significant social or other effects to the community as a result of the development and use of the mosque; and
- (3) on its planning assessment, the proposal is an acceptable outcome having regard to the location of the subject land and the suite of planning scheme policies and provisions that apply. It is a good location that, with main road frontages and its relationship to industrial land, will have limited off-site amenity impacts. Nearby residences, some of which are in the Industrial 3 Zone, will not be unreasonably affected by the proposed use and development.
So, with UPF looking for something to ‘demonstrate’, they decided to latch onto the remains of a dragged out, vexatious test of our planning system.
In a typical fashion of the far-right, they claimed corruption as the primary motivator of their planned demonstration against the mosque proposal. Blair claims there is a conflict of interest between council members, and the proposal. It is also important to note that on the third hearing, the group applicants attempted to have the president recuse himself from the case:
- A third request for a Practice Day Hearing was received by the Tribunal on Friday 29 May 2015. In this request, the group applicants sought recusal of the President, that the matter be vacated and that a new panel be established to hear the proceeding de novo. The basis of this request was that the President had given instructions for two letters dated 13 March 2015 and 20 March 2015 sent by the Victorian Government Solicitor’s Office (‘VGSO’) on behalf of the Tribunal. In fact, the President had not done so. Instructions had been given by the Principal Registrar to the VGSO in accordance with the decision of the Court of Appeal in R v Perkins and the Tribunal’s guidelines relating to contempt proceedings. A strict separation and clear demarcation had been maintained by the Principal Registrar between his role in possible contempt proceedings and that of judicial officers of the Tribunal in determining administrative review and contempt proceedings.
The cry of ‘corruption’ from Blair, much like the cry of ‘corruption’ against Cr Stephen Jolly, is unfounded. See, Bendigo Council initially did send a Notice of Decision to Grant a Permit to all objectors, however, once they lodged an appeal with VCAT, the decision was no longer that of Bendigo Council. Blair maintains that the council is ultimately responsible for the approval and the ‘corruption’ that drove the approval, however, even if the council had declined the application and the applicants had objected to VCAT, the result would’ve likely been the same – approval. The decision granted by Bendigo Council is nullified, as are his assertions that ‘corruption’ drove the decision, unless, of course, he claims VCAT also has a conflict of interest and is therefore corrupt. Time will tell.
UPF have now asserted they will ‘descend upon’ Bendigo Council on August 29th. Yes, a Saturday. Yes, they’ve ‘rallied’ against a council on a Saturday before. You’d think by now they’d realise that government offices are closed on weekends.
In true UPF fashion, a build up of ‘Pro Aussie’ rhetoric is taking place as we speak, and accusations being thrown left, right and centre against those involved with the mosque development. The problem here is a misunderstanding of the Planning Act. The mosque will go ahead, regardless of how many tens of bigots they chuck outside a council building on a weekend.
Much like Blair’s “MY WILL” letters, this demonstration is destined to fail. In somewhat realising this, the UPF have now backed the calls for fundraising from the basically defunct ‘Stop the Mosque in Bendigo’ group. Although the lawyer they’ve chosen to represent them has a shady, and continually failure-ridden record, they’ve chosen to fund him to attempt to have the case appealed AGAIN in the Supreme Court. A venture likely to be thrown out on the grounds of ‘vexatious’ abuse of our legal system. A financial drain, if you will.
The idea of a counter demonstration is currently being discussed, but likely won’t eventuate, as the demonstration that UPF are proposing is almost certainly going to be a flop.