Retired nurse fined over message scrawled on billboard16th May 2021
As for Mr Langford’s right to free political speech, in lengthy reasons considering the constitutional implications of his argument, Ms Huntsman found the Graffiti Act did not “impermissibly burden” that freedom when weighed against the need to protect private property.
“A person can put political messages in chalk on footpath… a person can stand with a sign on the street,” she said.
She declined to “impose clean-up orders on a pensioner”, saying “he’s not a tagger”, but convicted and fined Mr Langford $400, describing the penalty as “relatively lenient”.
Outside court, Mr Langford said his father fled Austria in 1938 at the age of 17 when it was annexed by Nazi Germany, and he felt “pissed off” that “people with a well-founded fear of persecution, like that, are being locked up” now with little outcry.
“It’s a last resort really, to write something publicly,” he said.
Mr Davis said the case reveals “how thin our right to political expression is in Australia”.
“Australians tend to believe we have the right to political expression, and yet when it is tested in court as it was today, continually it is shown that we do not.”
Mr Davis said people should be able to defend such charges on grounds of political speech without having to prove that the law is unconstitutional.
“It is continually disappointing, heartbreaking actually, that it’s regarded as almost bizarre to run this type of defence in the local court,” he said.
Mr Langford will return to court later this month on separate charges relating to the poster pasted on a statue of Macquarie.