Letters to the editor

Last week Frankie J Holden received his Order of Australia Medal for service to the arts as an entertainer, and to the community of the Sapphire Coast last week.
Last week Frankie J Holden received his Order of Australia Medal for service to the arts as an entertainer, and to the community of the Sapphire Coast last week.

Code of Conduct 

The Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association (BVSRRA) notes the comments of the mayor Kristy McBain, regarding reports currently circulating in the community claiming that two councillors have been found to have breached the Bega valley Shire Council’s (BVSC) Code of Conduct.

The alleged breaches are said to relate to the non-disclosure of conflicts of interest in respect of matters before council.

Cr McBain indicated that a report may be coming to council on the matters in the near future.

The BVSRRA has previously voiced strong criticisms of the management of Code of Conduct matters by council and is therefore naturally concerned as to how the current, relatively new council will respond to this situation.

The BVSRRA believes that it is important for the community to be aware that breaches of council’s Code of Conduct by councillors must be formally reported to council and the reports detailing the investigations into the breaches must also be tabled for consideration.

The BVSRRA also thinks that it is important for the community to be aware that it is potentially open to the elected council to deal with Code of Conduct Complaints in “closed session”.

This of course avoids public disclosure of details of the alleged breaches and more importantly, concealsthe identity of the councillors who have allegedly committed those breaches.

Unfortunately, with one spectacular recent exception, BVSC has on occasion seen fit to review such matters “in camera”, thereby denying the community the opportunity of being made aware of councillor’s unacceptable behaviour while, at the same time, potentially tainting the reputation of the entire council.

The BVSRRA also believes that it is important to recognise that council is not obliged to deal with Code of Conduct Complaints in “closed session”.

It reminds councillors of their individual and collective responsibilities to foster trust and confidence within the community toward the council and its elected representatives.

This would also give credibility to the claim of the council to be open and transparent with the community in its decision making processes.

The BVSRRA also believes that it is important for all public officials to be conscious of the fact that where they are guilty of breaching their responsibilities under the Code of Conduct, that there are very real consequences, including exposure of their behaviour to the community.

The BVSRRA believes that it is imperative that councillors understand that any failure to insist on full disclosure in these matters will certainly give rise to a loss of confidence in them on the part of the community.

John Richardson, Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association

Dear Mothers

We have reviewed your employment contract (attached) for Mothers’ Day and have found that it does not meet the National Employment Standards.

Your normal hours of work (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) are well above the maximum weekly hours. You receive no penalty rates, no loading and no leave. In fact, your child (Employer) requires a weekly salary from you in the form of pocket money.

Bathroom breaks are not permitted unless they are a group activity and the Fair Work Act does not recognise tantrum-based dispute resolution procedures.

However, the annual incentive of breakfast in bed and a hand-painted coffee mug on Mothers’ Day and your total fixed remuneration of the priceless love of your children are sufficient to know that you would not trade a single sleep-deprived moment for the world.

Happy Mothers’ Day to all the hard-working mums.

Rachel Cosentino, Slater and Gordon

Politicisation of Fluoride 

The Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association (BVSRRA) notes the comments by the state Opposition Health spokesperson, Walt Secord, criticising community opposition to the proposed full fluoridation of the shire’s drinking water supplies.

Singling-out the Clean Water for Life – Fluoride Free for Bega Valley Shire group for particular criticism, Mr Secord accused the group of “misleading” the Bega Valley community about the fluoridation issue and criticised the group’s 2,000 signature petition opposing the fluoridation of the shire’s drinking water supplies submitted to council earlier this week.

While the BVSRRA notes Mr Secord’s claim that the group “does not have a right to impose its views on the community”, it also notes that he stands ready to hypocritically bestow that same right on himself, faceless bureaucrats from NSW Health and on unqualified Bega Valley Shire councillors, while expressly denying the same right to the community.

While the BVSRRA believes that, as the Opposition Health spokesperson, Mr Secord is entitled to express a view on the contentious issue of fluoridation, it does not believe that his opinion should be afforded any greater weight than the opinion of members of the Bega Valley community.

Moreover, while Mr Secord has seen fit to publicly attack the community-based group opposing fluoridation of the shire’s water supplies, he ignores the failure of the state government, in particular NSW Heath, to mount a convincing public campaign in support of its proposal.

The BVSRRA questions Mr Secord’s assertion that “The community’s views are very clear on this issue. They want fluoride in their drinking water”, which is clearly contradicted by newspaper surveys, petitions and an abundance of submissions rejecting the proposal. Where is his substantiation for this ill-informed statement?

Indeed, it seems to the BVSRRA that Mr Secord’s comments have not arisen out of any genuine concern for the health and wellbeing of the residents of the Bega Valley, but rather reflect a cynical attempt to simply make life more difficult for his political opponents in Macquarie Street.  

And while Mr Secord is happy to offer gratuitous remarks on the fluoridation issue, the BVSRRA notes that his behaviour is no better than that of his colleague, the member for Bega, Andrew Constance, or Bega Valley Shire Council, who have refused to pursue a direct dialogue with the community and assess its opinion on the issue.

The BVSRRA has consistently argued that the onus should be squarely on NSW Health to convince the community on the merit of its proposals and if it is not able to do so, then it should abandon its plans.

The BVSRRA does not believe that it should be up to the community to prove that the proposal will be deleterious to its health.

At the same time, the BVSRRA is strongly of the view that the elected councillors of the Bega Valley Shire should not be attempting to determine the matter through amateurish attempts to understand and assess the science attached to the issue, but rather to focus their efforts on understanding and responding to the views of the community.

Regrettably, the willingness of councillors to participate in a confidential meeting with representatives of NSW Health last week did nothing to reassure the community that it is genuinely interested in taking account of its views.

John Richardson, Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association