Reasons for Privacy

Published on Saturday, 1 May 2021 at 2:53:00 PM

Like all 140 councils in Western Australia the Kalgoorlie-Boulder City Council has to operate under laws and regulations covering local government.

If we don’t the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries can intervene and take action.

It is those legal reasons that led the Council to do what it has done over the special meeting last week that has seen the return to work of the CEO John Walker.

I should not have to use this weekly column to explain why we have met our legal requirements by maintaining privacy for the CEO but I’m afraid media coverage in this newspaper and the ABC has not been fair or balanced, with calls for the Council to break the law.

If we had done just that and the breached the Local Government Act, its regulations and our own Code of Conduct I wonder if the reverse attack would have been just as shrill.

One thing is for certain the Department and the Minister responsible would not be happy and would be asking some big questions of myself and council.

I do understand why people would like to know what happened in the meeting and what led to the final decision and like my predecessor and previous councils, where possible we are open and transparent. Once again, if we had kept matters secret when there was no legal reason to do so we would have been rapped over the knuckles and that has not happened since I was first elected in 2015.

I can assure you that the 12 councillors want to be open and transparent and in this case have questioned, more than once, the legal reasons for maintaining privacy. We are not fools and know that there will be those in the community – some would say the conspiracy theorists – who will be critical and claim there is a cover up.

There is often a fine line between what local government can disclose and what it can’t, but in every case it is imperative that laws are not broken.

Against that there is the modern term called ‘pile on’ where mainstream media opinions and bias combine with Facebook clamour to create a life of its own where public emotion becomes unfair and unbalanced. That is made worse when mention is made of the pay scale of the CEO, as if there should be one law for a certain level of pay and another for the average worker.

Finally, as well as the legal reasons for our actions, a very good moral reason is that like all employers we must maintain duty of care by ensuring our workers have the privacy and protection all Australians have a right to.

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