Melbourne lawyer says ban on political discussion in mosque inappropriate for planning permit

Artist's impression of mosque planned for East Bendigo.
Artist's impression of mosque planned for East Bendigo.

A lawyer representing the Islamic Mission of Australia has said banning political discussion at the Bendigo mosque site was not a condition that should be placed on a planning permit. 

Solicitor for Melbourne-based law firm Best Hooper, Sarah Raso, said permit conditions could only cover "use and development of land" not aspects regarding discussion.  

"A condition has to be enforceable," Ms Raso said. 

Ms Raso is acting for the Islamic Mission of Australia at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

This week Ms Raso has acted for the Islamic Mission of Australia in seeking to have some conditions of the approved planning permit overturned. 

These include restrictions on opening hours, limits on political discussion and a cap on the number of worshippers at certain times of the day. 

City of Greater Bendigo councillor Elise Chapman said any change to the conditions of the planning permit should return to the council for debate. 

In relation to the clause restricting political discussion on the site, Cr Chapman said she was concerned that political discussion might include the preaching of ideas "contrary to Australian law".

"I think residents are concerned that there could be preaching of Islamic extremism and nobody in Australia wants that," she said. 

Cr Chapman said a desire for access to the mosque site outside the 5am to 11pm restriction in the planning permit should have been flagged when the original permit was written. 

Ms Raso said the Islamic body wanted to allow worshippers the flexibility to come to the mosque on certain days of the year when the first prayer of the day was scheduled before 5am. 

Cr Chapman said council should be given a calendar of the days when the first prayer was scheduled before 5am and come back to debate the issue.

Councillor Helen Leach said she thought extending the visiting hours to the mosque would be a disturbance to neighbours. 

"No other planning applicant has come forward saying they want 24 hours access," Cr Leach said. 

Mayor Barry Lyons said councillors would discuss appeals to the planning permit on Wednesday night. 

"We put the conditions in there - if they choose to appeal those conditions they may," Cr Lyons said. 


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