ALBURY Council has rejected a push for an exclusion zone to stop protesters approaching women attending the Englehardt Street abortion clinic.
The council has told organisers of a petition signed by 5500 people calling for the zone that there is nothing it can do.
Instead, mayor Kevin Mack said it was up to member for Albury Greg Aplin to take up the cause.
“It is a state law that needs to be enforced in this issue,” he said.
“Although Greg may feel he wouldn’t get support in the house, he should do it as it’s his job to represent this city and take this matter to Parliament.”
However, Mr Aplin said Cr Mack was trying to blame him for the council’s problem.
“The council haven’t referred the matter to anyone at this point,” he said.
“If the council is asking for something specific, they should take the appropriate action.”
Mr Aplin said if it were to be referred to him, he would take the issue to the relevant minister, as he would for any of his constituents.
He said Cr Mack must be confused by suggesting he take it to Parliament — doing so would just be “grandstanding”.
Mr Aplin said he’d already briefed the Local Government Minister, Attorney-General and Police Minister.
He had done this after earlier receiving a letter from the council on the issue.
“All of them argue it’s a law and order matter and we will support the police to perform that duty,” he said.
“The ramifications of an exclusion zone would be immense and would apply to all people, including, perhaps, the participants themselves.”
The petition was tabled by Cr David Thurley in March.
A report will be presented to the council’s planning and development committee meeting this month “for noting”.
Rights to Privacy Albury spokesman Pieter Mourik said he was “disappointed but not surprised” when he received an email on Wednesday night informing him of the council’s decision.
The retired medical specialist had repeatedly said the campaign was not about stopping protests, but instead preventing the harassment and intimidation of women entering the Englehardt Street clinic.
Dr Mourik said he did not want to comment specifically on the notification email from general manager Frank Zaknich given its legal nature.
“We need to look at it as a group next week and to get advice on whether what is being said can be challenged,” he said.
Dr Mourik said the public would be “absolutely amazed” at how committed the council was “to doing nothing”.
“The whole committee is very disappointed that the council did not take the opportunity to organise a private mediation behind closed doors of all parties,” he said.
“That’s because we may have been able to reach a compromise that would reduce the violation of medical privacy.”
Cr Mack said he hoped the council decision had not been taken personally “because I have friendships in both groups”.
“That is the frustration I have — I sympathise with both groups because I see them as quality community representatives,” he said.
“But what do you do, what do I do?”
Cr Mack said it was imperative commonsense prevailed.
“To be honest, this has caused me distress,” he said.
“Part of that is to mediate and work together in the best interests of the young girls and the rights of the protesters,” he said.
Cr Mack said people on both sides of the debate were “highly intelligent and motivated people” whose emotions were “caught up in the extreme nature of what’s going on”.
“If they rolled it back a couple of levels and thought ‘what are we actually doing here, who are we doing damage to?’ they might realise a solution is quite simple,” he said.