Councillors delay vote on controversial new behaviour laws
A CONTROVERSIAL motion that could give the Fraser Coast Regional Council sweeping powers to ban irate residents or serial pests from contacting staff has been delayed.
The council's Unreasonable Customer Behaviour Policy was debated by councillors at yesterday's meeting.
Under the proposal, residents who exhibit threatening, aggressive or harassing behaviour towards council staff could be banned from contacting them again and from attending council buildings or be blocked on social media.
Councillors would also be covered by the policy.
But the motion was held over for the next meeting after councillor Stuart Taylor moved the council seek legal advice on whether the document was in keeping with the principles of the Local Government Act.
Deputy mayor Darren Everard was the only councillor to vote against the delay.
Council documents reveal the depth of questionable behaviour by certain customers, with one case having almost 500 correspondences from an individual over a single issue.
Outside the meeting, Cr Everard said the way council staff were treated by some members of the public was unfair and not acceptable.
He said there needed to be a line drawn in the sand between freedom of speech and abuse.
"If someone's going to get abused and called names, is that fair? Is that really freedom of speech?” Cr Everard said.
"If you walked into a shop and abused a staff member, there would be action taken, councillors are looking after the best interests of their staff.”
Fraser Coast mayor George Seymour said he would always stand up for council staff that were being bullied.
"Our staff are sometimes treated as punching bags... they literally have their lives threatened by people sometimes,” Cr Seymour said.
"It is entirely appropriate the council says we won't put up with people bullying our staff.”