Perth Council will ask the Premier and Police Minister to re-introduce a law to make begging in the city an offence.
The council approved the move at tonight’s meeting but the decision to seek State legislation was not unanimous, with one councillor expressing doubt such a move would address the problem.
Speaking in support of the move, Perth Mayor Lisa Scaffidi said aggression towards the city’s rangers from people begging on the street was “at a very serious level”.
Ms Scaffidi said Australia’s welfare system was such that “nobody needs to be begging”.
“Technically there is no need: it’s a desire to have more money but that’s a desire that’s not exclusive towards beggars,” she said.
“I think many of us around this table (would like to have more money).”
Ms Scaffidi and other councils shared their encounters with at-times aggressive beggars, which included threats against a shop owner and one man who repeatedly harassed an 80-year-old woman walking through the city’s shopping precinct.
Councillor Reece Harley was the only councillor to speak against – and ultimately vote against – the move. He said he had thought “long and hard about it” but had not been persuaded that the council’s plan would be the best strategy to address begging in the city.
“I haven’t been able to find recent evidence that making begging an offence under the law has diminished the occurrence of begging,” he said. “I haven’t seen a noticeable difference... between Melbourne and Sydney where in one jurisdiction it’s illegal and where in another jurisdiction it’s not.”
The council also agreed to consider a communication program to deter the public from making donations to beggars and donate instead to charitable organisations.