JULIANNE Wilson did not sit outside Albury’s abortion clinic yesterday to protest against the right-to-life protesters and nor was she there to proclaim her views on abortion.
Mrs Wilson sat in her camping chair with an Esky beside her on the nature strip outside the Englehardt Street clinic in a lone, day-long vigil for freedom of speech and the right to protest.
She said she decided on a whim on Wednesday night to go down to the clinic the next morning with placards that read “Even the ignorant have the right to free speech”.
“It just annoyed me last night,” she said yesterday.
“I just got so frustrated, people are getting caught up in the emotion. Whether I agree, whether I don’t agree, where is this all going to? Queensland?”
Her reference related to Queensland’s new laws targeting bikie gangs which have concerned some they would affect innocent riders.
“We’re seeing too much freedom eroded,” Mrs Wilson said.
“If we ban these people from protesting who’s going to be next?”
It was a point Albury mayor Kevin Mack also touched on yesterday as four representatives of The Helper’s of God’s Precious Infants continued their vigil on either side of the street outside the clinic.
“Is this issue about abortion or is this issue about the right to protest or the right for free speech?” he said.
“This is a highly complex social issue that we see Pieter Mourik and his team having a far greater outcome in going to the state’s legislature.”
His comments came after retired medical specialist Dr Mourik, who is leading the charge to ban the protests outside of the clinic, levelled the responsibility of the issue back onto the council after he was told State Parliament was best placed to address it.
“The council is local NSW government and I don’t believe they can do nothing. I think doing nothing is easy for them,” Dr Mourik said.
“I think the council should be looking at ways to assist the majority of people who want this to stop.”
Cr Mack said he had not seen hard evidence that suggested the majority of people in Albury wanted the protests to stop.
He said the council would listen and if there was enough evidence, a report making a recommendation could be prepared.
But, he said, changing by-laws to create an exclusion zone was vulnerable to legal challenges that could cost ratepayers.
“This is not a debate about personal opinions or beliefs, it’s a matter of law and in this circumstance the state government is the most suitable authority for implementing and enforcing legislation.”
Mrs Wilson said the last time an issue angered her that she publicly protested was in 2005 when the Howard government introduced WorkChoices legislation.