Liberal councillor 'barred' from speaking at Wollongong free bus rally

Speaking out: Liberal councillor John Dorahy (pictured inset at Wollongong council) says he was told by Chloe Rafferty he could "absolutely not" speak at Sunday's free bus rally. Pictures: Georgia Matts, Sylvia Liber.

Speaking out: Liberal councillor John Dorahy (pictured inset at Wollongong council) says he was told by Chloe Rafferty he could "absolutely not" speak at Sunday's free bus rally. Pictures: Georgia Matts, Sylvia Liber.

Wollongong Liberal councillor John Dorahy says he was barred from speaking at Sunday’s student-organised Save Our Shuttle rally.

The businessman – who, like his two Liberal councillor colleagues is in support of the NSW Government keeping the service free – said he was disappointed not to be able to put forward his views.

Cr Dorahy said he asked rally organiser and University of Wollongong student union leader Chloe Rafferty if he could “take 60 seconds” to add his message of support for the free bus.

“She went ‘Absolutely not, you’re barred, you can’t speak’,” Cr Dorahy said. “I found that really denigrating, from a community perspective, given that we as councillors have a bipartisan approach to this.”

Ms Rafferty said she had not used the word “barred”, but stood by her decision to prevent Cr Dorahy from getting on stage. 

“At the very last moment John came up and asked if he could speak, but the protest was organised by the student union and it was an explicitly anti-Liberal rally,” she said.

“it’s good that John has taken the position of opposition the fares on the free bus but our message was about taking on the Liberal state government about this issue and other issues that are affecting students.”

Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery has also remarked that he would have preferred the rally to be “a little more bipartisan”.

Taking the chance to speak about his opposition to introducing fares on the shuttle, Cr Dorahy said he had approached Transport Minister Andrew Constance to ask that he look at all options, as he believed the decision had not been made based on “evidence and logic”.

“This was put in place, not just for students, but for people who are most vulnerable and don’t have the ability to pay – the youth or the aged – and the tourists who come to our town,” he said.

“It has so much commercial value for Wollongong and I think the Transport Minister and the government bureaucrats should have wisely taken the opportunity to at least speak to [the council’s] commercial manager and to UOW to look at the options.”