YOU’VE got to be a bit careful now. Could accusing a Bass Coast Shire Councillor (above heading) of “having two bob each-way” be seen as abuse?

It might under the proposed new Bass Coast Shire Council’s ‘Unreasonable Customer Conduct Policy’ after council agreed to support Cr Michael Whelan’s Notice of Motion at Wednesday’s council meeting, March 17.

Trying to go both ways on the question was Cr Ron Bauer – on the one hand concerned the policy might stifle legitimate comment but on the other hand wanting to support the shire CEO Ali Wastie in delivering a safe workplace.

Here’s what he had to say during the debate this week:

“This motion is calling on Council officers to prepare a policy to deal with unreasonable customer conduct. It cannot be disputed that there are a handful of people who are difficult to deal with, who are bullies, rude and vexatious,” Cr Baurer said.

“I know that some Councillors will not agree with me, but being an elected official and dealing with constituents in all their forms, is part of our job. However, we as Councillors also have a duty of care to our CEO whom we employ directly and her staff, the officers of the Council.

“This issue walks a very fine line between OH&S verses free speech and civil liberties.

“I have no issues with the OH&S policy of the Shire but as my fellow Councillors know and I think most people watching this Council meeting would also be aware, that my political past comes from the Reason Party where civil liberties are a core value. I am very sensitive to the way this policy can be crafted and could be used.

“My instincts tell me we should deal with people who are difficult to deal with, who are bullies, rude and vexatious on a case-by-case basis. We must not cast a broad net over all the rate payers, newspaper editors, TV stations news editors, Facebook bloggers or trolls or other persons or media.

“To that end I have had a lengthy conversation this morning about this motion and the development of the policy with our CEO Ms Wastie who has categorically assured me that even with this policy in place every, Every person will still have a touch point with the Council and an officer of the Council.

“My instinct is to abstain from voting on this motion because it’s such a fine line between OH&S and civil liberties and free speech, however that would be recorded as a negative vote by our governance rules, and that is not my desire.

“This motion asks the CEO and officers to prepare a policy, but I do have two conditions for supporting this motion.

  • That the policy when drafted is scrutinized by a qualified lawyer versed in Civil Liberties.
  • That this policy is brought back to Councillors for scrutiny before being posted and enacted.

“I can assure you that if this process is not done openly, the community will rightly hold us up for not being transparent and accountable and the same people that we are trying to apply this policy to, will leave Bass Coast Council open to lengthy and costly legal proceedings.

“If these two provisos are not met I am foreshadowing that I will oppose the policy.”