Goulburn Mulwaree Council is cracking down on 'illegal' election signage across the area following a flood of complaints.
The Vote Angus Out group, targeting sitting Liberal Angus Taylor, has also been instructed to remove its signs, following council advice from the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).
The Post is also aware of defacement of Mr Taylor's signs.
The council recently wrote to candidates stating that it had received multiple complaints regarding the unnecessary saturation of electoral signage at the Clinton and Bourke Street intersection.
"(The) council will be removing all but one sign per candidate on each street frontage. Within the last week there has been a serious motor vehicle accident at this location, and further reports of near misses. It is council's position that the signage poses a risk to public safety," the letter stated.
"Council requests your cooperation in refraining from erecting further signage at this location following their removal. In addition, Council will be enforcing similar action at all major intersections and sites within the LGA where driver and pedestrian safety may be placed at risk due to the distraction multiple signs may cause. Please refrain from erecting further signage at these sites."
On April 15, a motorcycle and car collided at the intersection. The 58-year-old man riding the bike and his 29-year-old son, a pillion passenger, were flown to Canberra Hospital with serious injuries.
Police said the crash cause remained under investigation.
The council did not answer questions on whether it had evidence that driver distraction, caused by the signage, was a factor.
Following the directive, some signs were removed but early this week, five of Mr Taylor's re-appeared on fencing. After The Post's questions to his office, most were removed, leaving one each on the Clinton and Bourke Street frontages.
On Wednesday, The Post also asked Mr Taylor's office why a ute with his campaign billboard on the back remained parked on Education Department land on the corner of Mount and Deccan Streets. The carpark was previously used for hospital construction vehicles.
By Thursday morning this had also been removed.
Section 184 of the 2017 Election Act prohibits the display of electoral material on Crown land.
In response to The Post's questions, Mr Taylor said there had been "a lot of illegal sign activity in the Hume electorate and Goulburn Mulwaree council area."
"Unauthorised and unlawful third party signs connected to and supporting the campaign of an independent candidate have been going up since January," he said.
"We are currently in close communication with council about our obligations and working constructively with council. We are awaiting a response from the council as to its precise requirements regarding election signage at locations in town.
"We have asked the council to take an even handed approach to signage."
The Vote Angus Out group is backing independent Penny Ackery. The group has posted Vote Angus Out signs around the electorate since before the election was called.
A council spokesman said both the Election Act 2017 and State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 relating to election signs could only be displayed from the date the writs were issued and ending one week after the poll ended.
"Council made contact with the Australian Electoral Commission regarding the Vote Angus Out signage following complaints," the spokesman said.
"AEC confirmed as they are not fielding a candidate in the election that this signage must be removed. Council has made contact with the relevant parties and instructed them to remove (it).
"We have also been in contact with all political candidates to remind them of their obligations regarding electoral signage under the State Environmental Planning Policy."
However the AEC advised The Post that one did not have to be a registered party to display election signs. It nevertheless had to make clear who was authoring the material.
The council spokesman said that in regard to both pieces of legislation, it was the council's position that election posters could not be erected or placed on public land including on trees, footpath areas, or on any structure within a road reserve.
No penalties had been issued at this stage. However the council has impounded signs.
Vote Angus Out spokesperson Alex Murphy acknowledged the council had contacted them, citing the AEC advice and stating the signs were not 'by or on behalf' of a candidate, as required by the SEPP.
"We completely reject that interpretation of the SEPP. Our position is it's in breach of free political communication," he said.
"It also doesn't pass the pub test. I think if you ask the vast majority of people whether they have the right to erect a sign in their yard about who they don't want to vote for, they will say yes."
Election signage on private properties is allowed with the owner's permission however the council contends the Vote Angus Out signs are not related to a candidate.
Mr Murphy said as many community members had taken a 'Vote Angus Out' sign he had no way of knowing where they were and as such, could not instruct their removal.
He urged the council to issue a warning first if they had to be removed, rather than immediately fining individuals, as it had stated.
Mr Murphy said he was prepared to discuss the matter with the council but his group would also "pivot" to other LGAs that didn't interpret the laws as Goulburn Mulwaree had.
He rejected suggestions that volunteers or supporters had defaced Mr Taylor's signs and said any such action was "unacceptable and immature."
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