LETTER: Public and private Forums

Good communication and good reporting help democracy. Newspapers like the Queanbeyan Age are one important way the people can find out what QCC is thinking and vice versa.

An example was last week’s front page story (Queanbeyan Age, August 3, 2012) that made clear that Mr Chapman’s job is to help the council do its work for the community. The GM is expected to give advice privately and avoid public comments that might be regarded as political or partisan. The council must answer to the Queanbeyan electorate, and Mr Chapman must answer to council.

“GM’s Views Go Against Workplace Convention” might have been a fairer headline for the article.

For more balanced coverage, you might have linked Mr Chapman’s controversial views about going public, with my letter on page 11 (of that edition) that explained the risks.

In my long public service career, I never would have made an unauthorised public statement criticising a decision of my Minister or the Parliament.

I was bound by the time honoured principle of public administration that officials working for elected institutions, be it QCC or the Commonwealth Government, must keep their views private, leave the politics to the politicians and loyally serve their democratically elected masters. Otherwise, there would be chaos.

Pete West, former Director, Commonwealth Purchasing Policy.

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