Councillor Peter Ellem at the Grafton Council Chambers.
Councillor Peter Ellem at the Grafton Council Chambers. Caitlan Charles

‘There are nut jobs out there’

COUNCILLORS have confirmed they will continue to defy guidelines over the publication of interest declarations online.

A majority of councillors remained unswayed on the issue, voting down a recision motion put by Karen Toms, Greg Clancy and Debrah Novak.

Ms Toms moved the motion so council could put the returns on the council website, in line with guidelines set out under the Government Information (Public Access) Act.

The returns include pecuniary interests by councillors and designated staff.

Responding to questions from councillors, Clarence Valley Council general manager Ashley Lindsay said they had received a number of correspondences from theInformation Commissioner after last month's decision.

He also confirmed there was legislation that required the posting of the returns online and council would have to provide "good reason" why they chose not to do so.

"They have already put us on notice effectively to show cause as to why we haven't put the information on the website," Mr Lindsay said.

However, some councillors remained unconvinced that changed the situation and Cr Richie Williamson said he would "hold my fire" until the Information Commissioner provided "clear and concise" advice.

"I am sure the privacy commission will provide clear instruction with regards to what we should and shouldn't do," Cr Williamson said.

"But until we get that advice … I certainly will not be supporting the motion to rescind."

Councillor Andrew Baker said the guideline concerning redaction was "wishy-washy" and he was not just making the decision to keep them offline for himself.

"There are people out there that would like to think we respected their privacy and I am a bit stunned that the information Privacy Commissioner isn't onside with that view," he said.

"Has there been new information presented that would make me want to see this rescinded?

"Not at this stage."

Cr Toms said she hoped after the commissioner had contacted council with a "please explain" they would be swayed and agree to rescind the motion.

"I don't understand why there is such a reluctance and pushback in following the GIPA Act and guidelines," she said.

"It is quite obvious to me that this is what we need to do and there are opportunities to redact if people have an issue."

Cr Peter Ellem reminded councillors the Local Government NSW Conference had passed a motion to objecting to the guidelines and asking the premier Premier Gladys Berejiklian to "intervene."

He said he was voting against the motion because of the "very real fears" of violence against people in public office and recounted how he read an online post which suggested he should be shot.

"There are nut jobs out there - they are walking the streets or behind computer screens and anybody who has spent a bit of time in public life knows they are out there and knows they make threats to public officials."

The motion was lost 5-3 with Cr Toms, Cr Novak and Cr Simmons voting for the motion and Cr Lysaught, Cr Ellem, Cr Kingsley, Cr Baker and Cr Williamson voting against. Cr Greg Clancy was absent.

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