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The O’Farrell Government introduced a bill that will make the drawing of chalk rainbow crossings on public roads, footpaths or in parks illegal and punishable with fines of up to $440.

It is currently an offence to ‘chalk’ any premises – currently defined as buildings or structures – without the consent of the owner or occupier, but does not extend to public roads, footpaths or paving in parks. The Graffiti Control Amendment Bill, however, would make it an offence to “intentionally mark any premises or other property unless the person has first obtained the consent … of the owner or person in charge,” effectively outlawing public art efforts such as the widely popular rainbow crossing on public property.

Speaking out against the bill, state member for Sydney Alex Greenwich MP said: “The Bill creates a two-tiered approach that merges existing graffiti offences for marking property without the owner or occupiers permission. Temporary markings such as chalking will form the base offence and markings that cannot be readily removed or are made with a graffiti implement will be an aggravating factor. The penalties have not changed but temporary marking offences will apply regardless of whether or not the marking can be viewed from a public space”.

The Bill also creates an “aggravated” graffiti offence, which carries a maximum penalty of a $2,200 fine and 12 months in prison if the mark is done with paint or permanent marker and cannot be

“readily removed by wiping or by use of water or detergent”.

Greenwich savaged the bill in a speech to Parliament yesterday, arguing that “it is not even clear if children who chalk hopscotch squares on the footpath are in breach of the Graffiti Control Act.

Is playing a reasonable excuse?”

Greens MP and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge joined in the criticism, saying the bill would mean that children would need to get permission from their local council to chalk the footpath outside their home or school.

“There is nothing to be gained from passing a law that criminalises chalking out a rainbow crossing on the road,” he said. “The idea that people across NSW could be fined up to $440 for chalking public pavements demonstrates just how little regard the O’Farrell government has for basic civil liberties.”

 

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