ALL references to the word "offensive" will be deleted from a new social media policy for Bathurst councillors after a last-ditch attempt to have the word retained failed.
Bathurst Regional Council voted last week to adopt a new social media policy that included a number of amendments to the draft policy proposed by Cr Alex Christian but the item returned to the chamber on Wednesday after councillors Jess Jennings, Jacqui Rudge and Monica Morse lodged a rescission motion.
The first amendment from Cr Christian called for the removal of all three references to the word offensive from sections of the policy that covered the types of material councillors should not post to social media; the second called for the removal of a dot point saying councillors could not use social media platforms to "make negative references about council, other council officials, services or any business-related individual or associated organisation"; and the third amended a dot point requiring councillors to "be respectful, cordial, thorough and professional at all times" online by adding the phrase "including when referencing and dealing with council staff".
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Like a week earlier, Wednesday's meeting was again fiery at times and on several occasions mayor Bobby Bourke interrupted speakers to remind them not to make personal references to other councillors.
Cr Morse told councillors they were already bound by the Local Government Code of Conduct in both their online and offline dealings.
"A councillor has a special responsibility to uphold high standards of behaviour," Cr Morse said.
"To remove the word offensive from the proposed social media policy is absolute contrary to the accepted council code of conduct."
Cr Morse said free speech in Australia has never been about saying "whatever you want and being protected from the consequences of what you say".
Cr Rudge feared removing offensive risked creating an environment that would "turn into political theatre for personal political gain".
"Removing the word offend is not about freedom of speech, that's sheer nonsense," she said.
"It's enabling any councillor - prior to election, in particular - to either have provocation, divisiveness, intimidation and bullying tactics."
Cr Jennings again strongly opposed removing the word offensive, saying "council's code of conduct policy for councillors will, if this goes through, be a self-contradicting and confused mess because the overarching general policy rules out offensive behaviour but the social media policy is basically saying it's fine, by omission".
The rescission motion was lost 5-4.
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