City gags councillors over Gaza conflict

November 17, 2023 8:36 am in by
Image: City of Greater Geelong councillor Sarah Hathway

City of Greater Geelong Councillors have been barred from putting forward a motion calling for a ceasefire in the Middle East.

Councillors Sarah Hathway and Jim Mason prepared separate submissions after attending a heartbreaking vigil in memory of civilians killed since the outbreak of fighting on October 7.

Cr Hathway told Geelong Broadcasters she was shocked when council CEO Alison Wastie refused to allow the motion to be put to the other councillors.

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“I’m pretty frustrated, to be honest,” the councillor said.

“Merribek Council passed a similar motion on the 8th of November, and in Victoria we’re all under the same Local Government Act.

“I find it difficult to understand how one council can pass a motion, while another council in the same state doesn’t even have the right to discuss it.”

Cr Hathway admitted the motion may not have passed, but said that was not the point.

“The frustration is not even having the ability of the councillor group to have the discussion.”

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The councillors say they were asked by attendees at a Geelong vigil three weeks ago to take action on behalf of the local Palestinian community.

Cr Hathway said both motions were rejected on the grounds that they may put councillors and council staff at risk, or incite violence.

“The CEO is not an elected official and I’m a bit baffled about where this advice has come from,” said Cr Hathway.

“It’s the role of the CEO to listen to advice from the executive leadership team and other leadership teams at council.

“But there’s been one vigil and one rally here in Geelong, there’s been no violence and I’m pretty shocked at that implication.

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“I’ve had to relay this back to the Geelong mosque community and the people who asked me to put this motion. They’re baffled at the insinuation that there’d be any violence just from wanting to have a discussion about the issue.”

Cr Hathway said she understood some people’s view that councils should focus on roads, rates and rubbish.

” I’m not for one minute downplaying those kinds of core council services, those are critical services.

“But from my persepctive, as a Windermere Ward councillor I represent people in the community who are right now feeling very impacted and devastated about what is going on in Gaza.

“There are over 11-thousand people dead, two-thirds of them women and children, allegations of war crimes from an increasing number of reputable organisations such as Oxfam, Amnesty International and the United Nations, and in the local community there’s just a sense that no-one cares. We have local Palestinians who feel they’re not supported by community leaders.”

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The City of Greater Geelong was contacted but declined to comment.


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