Just over 12 months ago the Premier Barry O’Farrell announced he was getting tough on graffiti vandals with some tough new laws.
This newspaper reported then that the new state government had developed new laws that would see vandals slapped with licence suspensions and mandatory court appearances in a statewide crackdown on unsightly graffiti.
The news was welcomed by councils across the state, not least Tamworth Regional Council, who applauded the news that graffiti vandals would have to clean up their messes as a condition of court-imposed community service too.
At that stage Mr O’Farrell said it was good news for local communities who were sick and tired of waking up to find schools, fences, bridges and other buildings marred by ugly graffiti tags.
Among those who backed those tough new laws were Tamworth councillor and crime prevention working group chairman Ray Tait –who said it was about time.
The penalties, he said, were good initiatives although he suggested most vandals didn’t have a driver’s licence to have stripped from them anyway.
The tags, the council has complained, have defaced public and private properties. While some of us might suggest giving such taggers their own spaces to do what they want is another alternative, there will be anger over that as well – and that itwould appear to water down the moves against graffiti vandals.
Mr O’Farrell has now been accused of waving the white flag on his anti-graffiti legislation after dropping changes that would strip young offenders of their driver’s licence.
The government yesterday agreed to Shooters Party amendments removing the provision from its bill, ending a year-long impasse in the Upper House.
Last August, Labor, the NSW Greens and the Shooters Party amended the government’s graffiti bill to remove powers given to magistrates to strip offenders of their licence.
It led Mr O’Farrell to threaten to name and shame the 21 Upper House MPs involved.
But after rejecting the changes, the government has now agreed to back a new Shooters Party amendment to remove the driver’s licence provisions given to magistrates.
Despite also agreeing to the amendments, Labor has accused the government of surrendering a key plank of the anti-graffiti bill.
And to boot, there are accusations that the O’Farrell government has also slashed millions of dollars in funding for the graffiti prevention programs it subsidises for councils to help clean up those acts.
Councils will not be pleased.