THE CITY of Perth could take its first step towards dropping its media gag on councillors tonight with reforms to be debated at its finance and administration committee.
The City’s administration has reached the view it is time to change its policy, which currently does not allow elected members to discuss council matters with the media with the exception of the Lord Mayor.
The Local Government Act permits elected members to speak to the media as long as they make clear they do not speak on behalf of their council, a right reserved by mayors, chief executives, and deputy mayors where appropriate.
The City’s policy, which goes beyond the restrictions set out in State law, has been criticised by a number of State and local government figures, including Premier Mark McGowan and Minister for Local Government David Templeman.
Councillor Reece Harley has campaigned internally for reforms to the policy since he was elected.
In a report to the finance and administration committee, the City’s administration said the policy has not changed since 2007 and is due for a review.
The administration said the policy is perceived as a restriction on freedom of speech and is not meeting the desired objectives of council, given that “the majority of elected members in some form or another” have not complied with it.
The report states it would be more appropriate to permit all elected members to speak to the media but also introduce appropriate clauses that will protect other elected members, staff and the City from reputational harm, which would be in keeping with provisions already in the Local Government Act.
If the committee, consisting of councillors Harley, Janet Davidson and Lily Chen, approves the reforms they will go before the full Perth council on June 6 for a final decision.