LETTER: A town council media policy is wrong on every count

Sir – During my time as an alderman of the Alice Springs Town Council I fought the introduction of a media policy for years. It came before council twice. It was defeated twice.
The core reason was that elected members are not bureaucrats, not staff members. They do not represent the council but the ratepayers and the people of Alice Springs.
But it seems like slow setting concrete, bureaucrats have slowly but surely bureaucratised members. Some elected members have fallen for this, showing a deplorable lack of understanding of their core responsibility.
A media policy takes the honesty and passion out of the debate. It also takes transparency out of the debate.
I say to the councillors, it sells to the community a false representation of who you really are.
People deserve to know all your beliefs, so they can make a judgment of what you stand for and who you really are. This is the principal reason elected members at all levels of government have fought against constraints on good, honest debate in all forms.
A media policy creates a sameness, you are not distinguishable in the herd.
When going to polls people have very little understanding of what you have fought for, what you believe and who you really are.
I am amazed any elected member would vote to ensure that they are sounding like everybody else.
This issue would be fertile ground for fighting an election, or a by-election, if someone was forced to resign, considered his or her position had been made untenable.
The council needs to make up its mind: is it for democracy or against democracy.
I express no view about the subject matters at hand. Two good people – Jimmy Cocking and Steve Brown are in this debate.
But I say to Jimmy, don’t go down this road. It is undemocratic. Don’t vote for Steve next time. That’s your ultimate weapon. That’s what democracy is all about. Ultimately this issue may destroy democracy in this town if debate is stifled.
A councillor should even have the right to make a fool of himself or herself.
What would happen if a councillor is brought before the council on charges of violating a media policy? It would be decided on votes – and we all know which way the vote would go.
A media policy is wrong on every count.
Murray Stewart
Alice Springs

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6 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Janet Brown
    Posted December 4, 2012 at 8:01 am

    The trouble with politics in the last 10 + years is that the public service has deliberately moved to stifle elected members speaking out.
    The public service are the ones who have overstepped their positions. Elected members are voted in by the procedures of our democracy. Public servants are employed in government positions and ministers are heads of those departments. Oh how times have changed.
    So there it is. As elected members you are the voice for (in this case) the voice of the community of Alice springs. Those elected members who do not have the intestinal fortitude to represent the community and want to follow and be part of the public service should resign their positions and apply for positions within the public service. It is due to the inability of NT government elected members that the public service ran up such large debts and we the people of the Territory now have to suffer financial hardship in the attempt to recover financially. Under the Labor government the public service grew to almost 50% of Territory population including NGO’s. The CLP has a big job ahead and I hope for us all that they represent the population and can lead. Because the last thing we need is followers similar to the last elected government. I support my husband in his role to do what is in the best interest to Alice Springs and the continuation and growth of our town. The survival of our town. A town that our children want to stay in and grow their children.
    We are not prepared to stand by and allow stupidity and misleading information to stifle our growth. To those afraid of the truth tough. The truth is always out there just needs people prepared to say it over those who deliberately spread lies and propaganda. In this case many of them and then just Steve to fight for the truth coming out in front.

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  2. Gavin carpenter
    Posted November 30, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    Well said Murray.
    Unfortunately councillors in many instances tend to go along with what is put to them rather than put in their own thoughts and two bobs worth on what the populace are saying, be it right or wrong. It can easy be forgotten that the populace put you there to look after their interests regardless of pc correctness and keeping the hierarchy happy.
    My dad (on council for a number of years) always said, part of the town clerk’s training is how to control the councillors.
    How right he was!!
    Being on Council can get toward being a full time unpaid job, however that is the nature of the beast if a person gets elected. At times frustrating, at times seems a waste of time, at times very enjoyable and a great experience.

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  3. Gavin Carpenter
    Posted November 30, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Well said Murray.
    Unfortunately councillors in many instances tend to go along with what is put to them rather than put in their own thoughts and two bobs’ worth on what the populace are saying, be it right or wrong. It can easy be forgotten that the populace put you there to look after their interests regardless of pc correctness and keeping the hierarchy happy.
    My dad (on council for a number of years) always said, part of the town clerks’ training is how to control the councillors.
    How right he was!!
    Being on Council can get toward being a full time unpaid job, however that is the nature of the beast if a person gets elected. At times frustrating, at times seems a waste of time, at times very enjoyable and a great experience.

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  4. Stefan Hattrell
    Posted November 29, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    I cannot see how a simple media policy would prevent councillors from expressing their true thoughts, opinions and views, Murray!

    What such a policy is intended for is to prevent councillors from using inappropriate language (such as “nazi”) to promote their views.

    If a policy were introduced that genuinely did curtail your freedom of speech then you would have every right to take such a matter to the high court. And I am sure that it wouldn’t stand up against the precedents set by prior high court cases which have upheld the implied freedom of speech written into our constitution.

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  5. Jen Standish-White
    Posted November 29, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    @1 Speaking out is not the issue here. It’s about how one says it, whether written or verbal, and the relevant codes of conduct one has undertaken, or are obliged to uphold.

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  6. Hal Duell
    Posted November 29, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Well said, Murray Stewart. As someone who was often on the opposite side of the table to you on debatable matters, I never ceased to admire your willingness to speak out.
    Your contribution was sometimes funny and sometimes, in my opinion, flat wrong, but you were always honest to yourself and invariably challenging and refreshing.
    How deplorable if the Alice Springs Town Council becomes as bureaucratically bland as a bowl of vanilla ice cream. Alice deserves better, as does the continuing local debate hosted by this website.

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