A plan to build a new mosque in Melbourne’s south eastern suburbs has been unceremoniously dumped by Casey council, in an unusual meeting that was more reminiscent of a staged political announcement. Only about half of the people who turned up to watch the proceedings, were able to fit into the council chambers. About one hundred were left outside, the doors to the civic centre guarded by a line of police. Inside, Casey Mayor Sam Aziz read out a pre-prepared speech endorsing a recommendation by council officers not to allow a permit for the mosque with a “typical Islamic dome style roof” and 25-metre minaret on a vacant rural property on Belgrave-Hallam Road in Narre Warren.
He slammed a report in The Age suggesting that pressure from far-right groups had helped kill off the mosque plan, and added an additional, hard-line, clause in the motion to be voted on by council. The clause said that council will “allocate every resource necessary and required to defend the decision at other jurisdictions should there be a challenge to the decision”. This means the council will fight the rejection if it is appealed to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Cr Aziz said the only group of people outside the council officers who had an impact on council’s decision were Casey residents, many of whom he said expressed legitimate concerns about the application.
These concerns were backed up by council planning officers, who found the proposed mosque and the 153 car spaces would “result in a dominant built form and excessive hard paving not considered to be sympathetic to the landscape and scenic qualities of the area”. Meanwhile, VicRoads also objected to the proposal, finding it did not “represent sufficient orderly planning in the area”. During his speech, Cr Aziz lashed out at the mosque applicants, the Saarban Islamic Trust, because they had told the media they believed they had negotiated an agreement with the council. “I suggest to you that you have not endeared yourself to anyone BY making these comments and I also suggest that in future you consider your comments in the context of the truth not just your own self-interest,” Cr Aziz said.
The Saarban Islamic Trust was not given an opportunity to respond during the special council meeting, as no public submissions were allowed. Cr Aziz’s address was followed by another pre-prepared speech by Cr Rafal Kaplon, before councillors unanimously voted to reject the mosque plan and the public were asked to leave the gallery. Less than a minute after the closure of the meeting the mayor asked police to “remove people from the public gallery”. Despite the instruction, the protest appeared to remain peaceful. Afterwards, members of the local Muslim Pakistani community, who were among those locked out of the meeting, said they wondered if it was worth attending, because it was clear a decision had already been made.
The mosque would have mostly catered to around 470 Urdu and Hindi-speaking Muslims originally from India, Pakistan and Fiji. There were also future plans for an Islamic school with specialist farm program for 1000 students and staff on the block. Casey council issued a press release shortly after the meeting saying the city made its planning decisions on planning grounds. “Council has a record of approving mosques and Islamic schools as well as similar facilities of other religions where they meet planning requirements, and opposing them where they do not,” the statement from Cr Aziz said. The mosque proposal received 1003 objections from the community, while a Facebook page “Stop the Mosque in Narre Warren” had more than 10,000 likes.
AUSTRALIAN AID CUTS MAKE US THE LEAST GENEROUS WE HAVE BEEN AS A NATION
The Micah Australia coalition of churches and Christian agencies is deeply disappointed at the Government’s decision to proceed with the scheduled $224 million aid cut in the 2016-2017 Federal Budget. “These cuts will take aid to its lowest level and will make our nation the least generous we’ve ever been. Coming on top of more than $11 billion in cuts to aid since coming to office, this will be the fourth time the Government has targeted Australian aid for cuts,” said Ben Thurley, National Coordinator of Micah Australia. Australia will now give just 0.23% of overseas aid as a share of national income – the lowest level ever recorded in Australia’s history. “Many other countries are increasing their assistance towards the fight against poverty, Australia is stepping back its role in building a fairer world,” said Mr Thurley.
“The reality is that it’s people and communities struggling against poverty in our region and other parts of the world who will bear the consequences of these cuts.” According to Mr Thurley, the repeated cuts made to Australian aid damage and undermine the effectiveness of programs which have a direct impact on the lives, livelihoods, security and opportunity of many of our region’s poorest and most vulnerable people and communities, including women and girls and people with disability. “The Micah Australia coalition, alongside our supporters, remains determined to reverse these damaging cuts. We call on all political parties to commit to restoring Australia’s aid program – which is one critical way that we work with others to tackle poverty,” said Mr Thurley.
LEGAL PROCEEDINGS AGAINST ARCHBISHOP PORTEOUS DROPPED
Comments attributed to Martine Delaney following the withdrawal of a highly frivolous complaint against Archbishop Julian Porteous indicate this issue and its obvious threat to freedom of speech is far from over. Martine Delaney said, “But they need to know that I’m not backing down, I just don’t think it’s fair for people to have this matter strung out for months or years in the lead-up to a plebiscite.” Martine Delaney’s complaint to Equal Opportunity Tasmania was in response to the very reasonable actions of a catholic archbishop who distributed a booklet to catholic students and parents which presented catholic teachings concerning marriage, an institution standing for thousands of years.
It is unfortunate Martine Delaney has not realised during the conciliation process her perception of the contents and intention of the booklet is false. In stating this action was withdrawn due to its proximity to the plebiscite Martine Delaney, a Greens candidate in the upcoming federal election, has exposed the political motives of the complaint against the Archbishop. Freedom of speech is still being challenged, but the challenge will resume at a more suitable time for these political imperatives.
The Australian Prayer Network will again this year be calling the nation to prayer for the upcoming Federal Elections. The season of prayer will commence onMonday 30th May and go until election day on 2nd July.
On the Tuesday of each week commencing 24th May we will send out across our network prayer points for the following week. This will allow Churches to include the prayer points in their weekly bulletins on the Sunday leading into each week.
For those who are not members of our network, the prayer points will be available for viewing on our website at www.ausprayernet.org.au from the beginning of next week.
We thank you in advance for taking the time to pray for God’s will to be done through the democratic process of this election.