The letter, ‘Protect and strengthen democracy’, by Kevin Griffin, April 12, is very much on the mark.
I would go even further to say that freedom of expression, choice and action is being slowly strangled by government, special interest groups and self-righteous entitled individuals. The stage has now been reached where any form of reasonable, candid but difficult expression is vigorously attacked so that only certain forms of expression or views are considered acceptable.
As a veteran and past RSL secretary who planned and conducted commemorative services for several years, I have become concerned about the entitled behaviour of elected representatives and bureaucratic council management with respect to these services.
I have experienced the response firsthand. I am now under admonishment for two years. Quite what danger a 75-year-old veteran who is not in great physical and mental health poses to the Bass Coast Shire is certainly beyond me.
I was admonished because of no actual staff complaint but a view by management that my writing was aggressive. It was but in a negative sense, no person was threatened, but it was aimed to make some managers feel uncomfortable because of their own poor behaviour. At least, no evidence has been presented to me to show any actual threat.
No, I had the temerity to question a bureaucratic decision which was rude to the RSL, insulted me, disrespected all veterans and sort to interfere with the RSL commemorative service by telling us at the time who would attend the service to represent the Bass Coast Shire.
The shire had already nominated a person weeks before when councillors were not available because of elections. The shire then replaced that nominee at short notice and without any consultation with the RSL secretary to replace the nominee by a newly elected Bass Shire councillor, and blow RSL protocols.
I found that poor behaviour rude and insulting, and an interference in the proper business of the RSL, an incorporated not profit organisation which is independent of any level government. And I said so in candid terms.
The RSL is not bound by local government decisions when it comes to commemorative services. It was argued that only councillors can represent the community at community events. Might I say, as a veteran, a commemorative service is not a community event by any stretch of the imagination, despite what state government guidelines say about councillor responsibilities. I insisted that the original nominee would stand at the service, as was my right as RSL secretary.
The outcome was an indefinite admonishment to not directly contact Bass Coast staff or councillors but use a nondescript email address.
About 12 months later, I asked local councillor what was happening with council bannings; I believe there was several of us miscreants. He said he would look into it. Not two weeks later, I am advised that my ban was extended for a further 12 months because I am still a health and safely risk. How that was assessed, who knows.
But what I do know is that I was not asked to attend or submit a defence to the so-called independent review. Seems the recent Unreasonable Customer Conduct policy document allows people to be excluded from the review process if they are seen to be a risk.
So, you have a policy which allows the shire to act as a star chamber to stifle free expression and fair criticism.
Rod Gallagher, Inverloch veteran.