Gag lifted

PERTH city councillors are finally allowed to speak to the media after abolishing the old restrictive rule at their meeting on Tuesday July 4, but councillors can expect a close eye to be kept on their social media accounts to make sure they’re not breaking the rules.

Cr Reece Harley’s been pushing for the right for councillors to speak their minds, and the new policy will let them publicly comment on council issues (provided they don’t purport to represent the city’s official views—only the mayor or CEO can do that).

They just have to make sure they aren’t derogatory about fellow councillors or trash council decisions.

Cr Harley thinks it’s a “great step forward for the City of Perth” as it was important for councillors to be able to explain why they voted a certain way.

Councillors Janet Davidson, Judy McEvoy and lord mayor Lisa Scaffidi all said the old policy being referred to as a “gag” was incorrect.

Ms Scaffidi said at the meeting “there’s been a lot of speculation and discussion about this ‘gag’… there’s been no gag. Many councillors make it quite a habit of speaking off the record to the media as well as on the record, and speak quite freely, and that’s their right, and certainly as an individual who can hold their own in a debate I don’t fear that at any time.”

She said the old policy was just to make sure ratepayers had clarity about the official city position. “It is an evolution of a policy, there never was any ‘gag’.”

Cr Harley disagreed: “I think there certainly was a gag at the City of Perth. I know that because I’ve received numerous letters from the former CEO contending that I’d breached the media policy by speaking to the media.”

The policy had been delayed by one meeting while they included clauses to cover social media too.

Ms Scaffidi said some councillors after losing a vote go on social media and give their opinion “and be almost derogatory at times in how they’re putting the story out there, and I think that will be monitored very closely from now on”.

Stirling remains the only council in our coverage zone that won’t let councillors publicly give their opinions, with Cr Elizabeth Re recently getting a letter from city lawyers telling her to stay hush after she put out a media release relating to a Local Government Standards Panel finding.

Meanwhile, after Perth MP John Carey described Lisa Scaffidi’s allies on council as a Liberal protection racket, Ms Scaffidi has said there’s no “clique” in the PCC chamber.

At the Tuesday July 4 council meeting she didn’t refer to Mr Carey’s speech directly but said “to have suggested that I control some of you around the table, they don’t know you very well, particularly the five that is suggested [to be part of] ‘Scaffidi’s Clique,’ that I control you, what an insult to you all as your own thinking beings.

“Certainly there are alliances, that doesn’t mean a faction, and an aligned thinking shows common purpose, care, and passion for the city.”

by DAVID BELL

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