In another Liberal National party attack on local democracy, councillors across NSW face being gagged to stop them criticising the actions of their council or speaking out against decisions they disagree with.
The first council to seek to enforce new gag laws passed by the NSW government, Armidale Regional Council’s has proposed a media policy that would ban councillors from speaking to residents or the media about problems they see on council or with council management.
Greens MP and Local government Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
“This is just one further plank in the Coalition’s attack on local council and local councillors. They don’t like being challenged by anyone.
“Councillors often disagree, and have passionate arguments about local affairs. This is part of a healthy democracy.
“No one should accept this effort to gag democratically elected councillors from speaking to, and speaking up for, the people who elected them.
“This was always going to happen once the Coalition changed the law to require councillors to uphold the decisions of a majority on council.
“The change was designed to silence dissent and now Armidale Regional Council has a draft policy that tries to do just that.
“It silences all criticism, whether fair or not, and has no place in our political culture.
“Councillors are elected to represent their local community, not spout approved lines from management or the majority on council.
“This is like banning any Greens NSW, Labor or other non-government MPs from saying anything negative about the Berejiklian government.
“It’s not acceptable at the State and Federal level and its not acceptable at a local level either.
“If you shut down criticism you shut down scrutiny and end up with an environment where corruption can flourish.
“If this gag gets up in Armidale then you can be certain it is coming to a council near you next, it’s a terrible precedent,” Mr Shoebridge said.