Editorial - Thursday, December 5: Unfair to dismiss public

WHAT is the point of a non-disclosure agreement that withholds information that anyone can find out by keeping their eyes and ears open?

This isn't a rhetorical question.

I'd really would like to know.

On Tuesday there was a NSW Industrial Relations Commission hearing into whether the dismissal of Clarence Valley Council head ranger Wayne Smith was unfair.

It concluded on Murwillumbah Court House steps with both parties agreeing to a conclusion and signing a deed of non-disclosure of information.

This included not revealing whether the ranger got his job back or not.

It was not because Mr Smith and his legal team did not want the story to get out, they arrived at court with every expectation the case would go ahead and all would be revealed.

However there is a bigger question to be asked about non-disclosure agreements.

Is it fair for an individual or an organisation to call for a non-disclosure agreement when behaviour may need scrutiny?

Non-disclosure is valid, for example, to protect intellectual property, such as when an employee leaves a company.

But how much ratepayers' money was spent on investigations and legal fees without the public being able to judge its validity and effectiveness?

The short answer is that ratepayers and reporters can't tell because none of the information was tested in a hearing and it is unfair to publish information that we can't take reasonable steps to clarify.

But stopping the poor bloke from being able to tell the world whether he had his job back or not was definitely one step too far.

Tim Howard

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