Recently a member of the community attempted to present, at a public council presentation, various views and issues that were important to him.
The CEO interrupted this presentation and asked the Mayor to close it down because the presenter was engaging in “allegations” and “accusations”.
I assume this was as a result of some sort of interpretation under Section 3.2(g) of Policy C65.
The Mayor agreed and the presenter was required to stop his presentation.
Dictionaries definitions are:
ALLEGATION
1. An assertion that someone has engaged in an unlawful act.
2. An assertion mainly related to misconduct.
3. A statement saying that someone has done something wrong or illegal.
ACCUSATION
1. A statement saying that someone has done something morally wrong, illegal or unkind.
2. A charge of wrongdoing.
3. A charge of wrongdoing, Implication of guilt or blame.
Unfortunately councillors and members of the community were prevented from listening to some interesting and important issues concerning the governance of the South Gippsland Shire Council, and in particular their bureaucracy.
Policy C65, Section 1.5 states that all participants in a meeting have the right to freedom of expression under the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act, 2006.
I am advised that Australia has two key elements that make up our freedom of speech: freedom of opinion and freedom of expression – without interference.
Our laws state “This right protects unpopular ideas as well as favourable ones, including opinions that may offend or shock.” “The right to hold opinions is not subject to any exception or restriction”.
In my opinion, for the CEO, as an employee paid for by ratepayers, to demand that the Mayor rules this presentation to be terminated on the basis of “allegations” and “accusation” is pretty bad, unjustifiable and totally unacceptable.
His personal opinions do not invoke the laws of Australia and as a council employee interfered while a member of the public exercised his right to freedom of speech. This is totally, unequivocally, absolutely, unacceptable.
I suggest there are some serious matters here that need to be addressed urgently. Furthermore, I think this interference by a council employee is symptomatic of a range of governance issues in need of serious solutions.
Gus Blaauw, South Gippsland Action Group (Incorporated), Venus Bay.