Anti mosque campaigners in Bendigo will lobby right wing extremists nationwide to bankroll a possible appeal to Victoria’s highest court.
Imposing young men standing guard at the door were closely watched by patrolling police at a secret meeting of campaigners held on Wednesday night at the Bendigo East Public Hall. The Concerned Citizens of Bendigo group, linked to the Stop the Mosque in Bendigo Facebook page, has vowed to take its case to the Supreme Court if it loses a VCAT appeal against the mosque being built.
Sydney lawyer Robert Balzola, hired to represent the group by Restore Australia founder Mike Holt, estimates a Supreme Court appeal could cost up to $50,000. The group has raised just $4000 to date and will appeal to supporters of Restore Australia and the Patriot Defence League Australia to raise the extra cash if needed.
Calls at the meeting for Bendigo to be specially legislated as a mosque-free city by the State Government have been labelled as “offensive” by Planning Minister Matthew Guy. “To target people based on their faith goes against everything Australia stands for as a peaceful, tolerant nation,” Mr Guy said.
Strong links between the Palmer United Party and the anti mosque fight have also come to light. Former Bendigo Palmer United Party federal candidate and former state Liberal candidate for Bendigo West – Anita Donlon – has been unmasked as one of the projects biggest opponents.
Ms Donlon, who spoke at the meeting, was also part of anti-carbon tax group the Consumers and Taxpayers Association (CATA), responsible for the “Ditch the Witch” and “Bob Brown’s bitch” protest aimed at former Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Mr Holt, another former PUP candidate in Queensland, has already revealed himself as a financial supporter to the group.
Clive Palmer’s spokesman Andrew Crook said private citizens were entitled to pursue whatever causes they wished. But if Ms Donlon applied to run in the upcoming state campaign for PUP, her background would be taken into account when considering preselections. He said all candidates would be considered thoroughly to ensure the best people were chosen.
The group has repeatedly declined to comment to the media but posting on Facebook it said it was left with no choice but to “take on the system”.
“We would not have to take this action if the council had it’s (sic) people’s interest at heart — NO community consultation, a planning application with far too many planning anomalies to even be considered at this time, unenforceable limitations placed on its approval and no consideration of social cohesion or security,” it read.