Recent media reports on WALGA’s template policy outlining communications responsibilities in Local Government incorrectly claim that through this policy, the Association is seeking to censor or restrict the free speech of Elected Members.
The template policy was drafted at the direction of State Council, following increasing concerns from Members around the growing use and influence of social media. These concerns included Elected Members’ private social media interactions as well as the actions of both Elected Members and staff on Local Government social media pages.
As a template policy, this forms the starting point for Members that wish to implement their own policy, with possible considerations and suggested wording for inclusion. There is no requirement for a Local Government to implement the template policy as provided, or to even adopt a policy of this nature should they think it not necessary.
The Policy highlights a number of already existing responsibilities for Elected Members drawn from current legislation and regulations including the Local Government Act, the Rules of Conduct Regulations and Councils’ individual Local Laws for their Meeting Procedures. These responsibilities remain regardless of whether a policy is adopted by an individual Local Government.
The Policy provides no intention to censor or restrict freedom of speech, but rather seeks to draw attention to the existing commitments and responsibilities of Elected Members and provides guidance for ensuring they do not inadvertently break them.