Listen to the full announcement at the bottom of this article.
BENDIGO city council has postponed its next meeting until after a proposed anti-mosque rally, announced a raft of new security measures and been given a reprieve from the state government on submitting its annual finances.
The public will now have to submit written questions by noon on the day council sits to have them read out and will have to view the meeting on a large screen on the bottom floor of Town Hall.
Today’s announcements came in the wake of its last meeting, on September 16, which was aborted after more than 100 protesters forced councillors and executive staff to leave the building under police escort.
That meeting was to be postponed until council was next due to sit, on October 7.
But Mayor Peter Cox announced today that police had advised the meeting not be held until after a proposed anti-mosque rally to be held October 10.
“After consultation with police we decided not to give the antagonists the opportunity to use the meeting as a publicity stunt,” Mayor Cox said.
The meeting will be now held on October 14 – seven weeks after council last held a complete meeting.
The mayor said it frustrating that council could not get on with its job and conceded items of business were piling up.
“It’s going to a long meeting and the agenda will be very thick,” Mr Cox warned press of the October 14 meeting.
“But there's only one matter that was urgent and that was the passing of our final financial accounts for the year – and we've got an extension to extend that into October rather than the end of September for them to be submitted to the state government.
“All other matters – and there are a lot of planning matters and it’s very disappointing for those applicants that have put in applications that have to be considered by council – we'll move on all of those matters on the 14th.”
That meeting will also see the city roll out its new security measures. At a press conference the day following last month’s aborted meeting, the mayor said he was considering exercising his powers as chair to have people acting disruptively in meetings removed and potentially fined.
But Mayor Cox said that situation could be avoided by today’s announcement.
He said the security measures would be temporary and hoped that question time could go back to normal and the public sit in on meetings again before Christmas.
A similar rally and counter-rally held late August drew more than 600 people and ended in confrontations which police broke up with pepper spray.
That caused the cancellation of a food and wine festival which was scheduled to be held October 10 – the same day as the proposed anti-mosque rally. City planners said the cancelled festival could cost the local economy more than $500,000.