Facebook foils shire free speech crackdown
THE COMMUNITY power of social media was demonstrated at last month’s Toodyay Shire Council meeting when two proposed new administration policies to restrict free speech failed to get a single vote after strong public opposition on Facebook.
Councillors voted 7-0 to scrap CEO Stan Scott’s recommendation to limit public question time to 15 minutes.
They also voted 7-0 to defer a new communications policy that appeared to give the CEO sweeping power to “monitor, approve and manage” personal Facebook pages and electronic devices used by elected councillors and shire workers.Read more
New Cr Bill Manning said the plan to restrict public question time to 15 minutes was “frankly a nonsense”.
“There is no justification for this policy,” he said.
“It’s tilting at a windmill that doesn’t exist.”
Cr Manning said Local Government Regulation 6(1) provided a 15-minute minimum time for asking questions.
“The proposal imposes a 15-minute maximum time limit and also attempts to restrict how an extension of time might be granted.”
Cr Manning said time limits were inconsistent with local government regulations which required each member of the public to be given an equal and fair opportunity to ask a question and receive a response.
“Today was a perfect example – public question time went on longer than 15 minutes and did not disrupt the meeting,” he said.
Mr Scott’s recommendation to adopt the new policy was moved by Cr Rob Welburn and seconded by Cr Eric Twine.
However, nobody spoke in favour and the motion was lost 7-0 (Shire President Brian Rayner and Cr Paula Greenway absent).
A new shire communications policy recommended by Mr Scott failed to attract a mover after it was separated on the agenda paper from a vote on a new shire uniforms policy, which was carried 7-0.
The new communications policy was strongly opposed on social media by an unusually broad cross-section of Toodyay’s online community after Cr Ben Bell criticised it that morning on his personal Facebook page.
There was silence when Acting-President Therese Chitty called for a mover, prompting her to support Mr Scott’s suggestion to defer it to a council forum for further discussion.
The new policy was “borrowed mostly from the City of Joondalup – there is some confusion as to what it means,” Mr Scott said.
There was no further debate when Cr Welburn’s motion to defer the item to a “future forum”, was carried 7-0.