Questions raised over City of Vincent media restrictions

Questions raised over City of Vincent media restrictions

THE City of Vincent has not reviewed its media policy in six years despite a review scheduled to take place in May last year.

As it stands, the City’s policy on media comment aligns with the Local Government Act, which allows only the mayor or shire president to speak on behalf of councils.

Vincent policy states comments by councillors “are only to be made on the basis that the media are informed by the councillor that he/she is not speaking on behalf of the council and the comment is qualified as being of a personal nature”.

Staff are to direct media to the City’s public relations officer or chief executive officer “if there is any doubt or the matter is more detailed/controversial”.

Vincent chief executive Len Kosova said he did not expect any changes when it was reviewed.

“We’ll be reviewing this in the next 12 months, but it’s currently working well and no major changes are proposed at this stage,” he said.

A former City of Stirling councillor last week criticised the Local Government Act provision, which he says prevents councillors speaking to the media about local issues.

Bill Stewart, who was on council for 19 years, said the current provision was “draconian” and should be amended or removed.

“It should be a requirement within a democratic society that councillors speak to the media,” he said.

Mr Stewart said while councillors were allowed to express personal views to the media, it was difficult to navigate the “minefield” that he said discouraged them from speaking.

Stirling chief executive Stuart Jardine said elected members must not make statements that were critical of a council decision or employee.

Opposition local government spokesman David Templeman said councils who used the provision in the Act to prevent councillors from speaking to the media “fails the transparency test”. Local Government Minister Tony Simpson said the Act was framed in a way that meant there was one regular spokesperson for a local government.

“This is to ensure the information given is consistent and reflects the council’s decisions,” he said.