City of Perth councillors to have final say on ending media ban after getting committee support

City of Perth's Council House.
City of Perth's Council House.

CITY of Perth’s finance and administration committee has voted to drop the City’s long-running media ban, but the reforms must be passed by the full council to take effect.

Last night the committee voted 2-1 to support the recommendation from City staff to end the gag on councillors speaking to the media.

The City’s administration reached the view it was 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 has been criticised by several people, 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.

He and councillor Jemma Green voted to support the changes yesterday, with councillor Janet Davidson opposed.

The reforms will go before the full Perth council on June 6 for a final decision.

In a report to the finance and administration committee, the City’s administration said the policy had not changed since 2007 and was due for a review.

The administration said the policy was perceived as a restriction on freedom of speech and was 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.

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