Sunday, 14 March 2010

State Greens call for Council Code review to protect democracy

Newcastle Greens
14 March 2010

The Greens NSW, meeting in Newcastle today, called on the State Government to review the system of local government Codes of Conduct to ensure they are not misused to suppress democratic rights.

“Greens councillors around NSW are being subjected to code of conduct complaints for activities such as releasing information to communities in the public interest, and for engaging in protests,” NSW Greens Local Government spokesperson Sylvia Hale MLC said.

“In some cases, these councillors are being subjected to detrimental findings by conduct reviewers who are often not adequately trained to make such judgements, and who often approach them from a corporate or managerial perspective, without giving due consideration to democracy.”

Ms Hale called on the state government to review the Division of Local Government’s Model Code of Conduct (which is binding on all councils) to include provisions that affirm the democratic role and rights of councillors, and to remove or amend provisions that might be used to prevent councillors from performing such a role.

“The community is entitled to expect elected representatives to defend democracy, and council Codes of Conduct should facilitate, rather than constrain, their ability to do this,” Ms Hale said.

The state meeting expressed support for Newcastle Greens Councillor Michael Osborne, who is being investigated under Newcastle Council’s Code of Conduct for his involvement in a climate change protest in December last year.

“Cases like this risk bringing council codes of conduct and local government itself into disrepute,” Ms Hale said.

“The Model Code should be revised to make it clear to General Managers that complaints of this nature against councillors should be simply thrown in the bin, so that council resources are available to properly investigate matters that really do threaten democracy, such as relationships between councillors and vested interests.”

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