No civic banner for refugees

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A BANNER to welcome refugees visiting Frankston Council offices has been shot down by councillors.

A majority of councillors at this month’s public council meeting declined to back a proposal by deputy mayor Cr Steve Toms to hang a banner targeted at asylum seeker newcomers to Frankston at the civic centre in Davey St.

“Refugees often feel nervous and untrusting of government services like Frankston City Council when approaching them due to the fleeing of countries with violent dictatorships,” Cr Toms said at the meeting.

“[It would be] a tangible hand of friendship to our city’s new arrivals in our civic centre.”

Councillors said refugees are welcome in the Frankston community but saw no need to display a banner at council offices at an estimated cost of $300.

A council officers report, tabled at the meeting, noted any refugees banner “is highly political and its consistency with policy, depends on the position of the government at the time”.

“This is an absolute waste, in my view, of ratepayers’ money,” the mayor Cr Brian Cunial said during debate.

Cr Cunial said he is “a son of Italian immigrants”.

Before the banner was voted down, the mayor expressed concern about a language barrier.

“I hope it’s written in the appropriate language so they can at least understand it,” Cr Cunial said.

Cr Toms unsuccessfully argued other councils such as Queenscliffe Council displayed signage welcoming refugees to council premises.

“Given all the hatred in the world, one has to agree that we need a little more love and acceptance and we can start right here at Frankston City Council.”

Crs Cunial, Colin Hampton, Lilian O’Connor and Michael O’Reilly voted against the motion.

Crs Glenn Aitken, Sandra Mayer and Toms voted for the banner.

Crs Quinn McCormack and Kris Bolam were not in the council chamber during voting.                       

First published in the Frankston Times – 11 September 2017

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