OPINION: Council can't hide from bad press
THE South Burnett Regional Council is kidding itself if it thinks the new media relations and councillor code of conduct policies are going to save it from bad or inaccurate news coverage.
These new rules prevent councillors from speaking about matters that are not in their portfolio and nominate the mayor as sole public voice. Councillors can't speak publicly before a matter is decided and once there has been a formal vote any of their public comments must be approved by the mayor. This information vacuum will force reporters to find voices from outside the council administration; these will be people who are angry, people who are ill-informed and people who are loud. News media exists to give people a place to speak their mind and sure, sometimes they are a bit extreme, but a lot of times they are not.
An elderly woman living at the end of a crappy dirt road deserves to have her voice heard. Residents who don't want their pool to close deserve to be heard. Folks who can't afford their rates deserve to be heard.
Councillors should be the ones who give these people a voice and advocate for them, both in private and publicly because that is, literally, what they are elected to do.
They are hyper-local representatives who speak for their community on range of issue. If Roz Frohloff can't speak about roads in Nanango, or Kathy Duff can't talk about pools in Proston or Gavin Jones can't talk about the lack of arts funding in Benarkin, what is the point of even electing them? Our journalists want to hold authorities to account and give balanced accounts of an issue, but we're not all the same.
There are plenty that will give voice to inaccurate ideas and extreme people to sell papers and get website clicks. These new policies won't change that.