An Ararat Rural City councillor has criticised the municipality's new social media policy as being "short-sighted" and limiting freedom of speech.
At its meeting on Tuesday night, the council adopted the policy, which was due for review having been in effect for two years.
Councillor Bernadine Atkinson was the only one to vote against the new policy.
The policy states:
"No councillor, employee or contractor is to issue a statement or make an announcement about council matters or on behalf of council through social media channels unless authorised.
"Do not respond directly if approached by media for comment through social media. Refer any media inquiries to the media team..."
During debate, Cr Atkinson said she had "reservations" about the policy.
"There is a great deal of authority given to the mayor, and I wonder if that's appropriate when we find that the mayor's role rotates on a yearly basis," she said.
"It inflates the Mayor's opinion and diminishes the position of all councillors to speak responsibly to the public. We are all here because we have leadership roles, and to curtail discussion on issues that may be contentious is very short-sighted.
"The contentious issues are exactly the ones the public needs to have information and knowledge about."
Cr Atkinson asked if the policy could be altered at the meeting. Chief executive Dr Tim Harrison said it would need to be reviewed and returned to the council.
Mayor Jo Armstrong said the council had workshopped the policy at councillor briefings, when there was the opportunity to question it. Cr Atkinson said the policy had been altered since the briefing, which Dr Harrison rejected.
Councillor Fay Hull said the policy provided with government legislation and she was happy with it as presented. Councillor Frank Deutsch said he didn't believe anyone could "hijack" the policy.
Cr Atkinson said the reservations she had were the responsibility of the role of Mayor and of councillors.
"The Mayor is the only one allowed to comment on behalf the council on statewide political issues affecting local government. That precludes people like myself who like to suggest ideas for structural reform," she said.
"Secondly, the contentious local issues that impact the community that do not directly relate to the business of council, but to the representation of the community. It is very important all councillors be allowed to express opinions on behalf of their constituents.
"Freedom of speech is critical in Australia: We don't have freedom to vilify or slander, but we must have freedom to exchange ideas and knowledge, and we do not need to have these constraints."
In response to a question from Councillor Gwenda Allgood, Cr Atkinson said local issues she may wish to comment on were the Western Highway upgrade at Buangor and liquid natural gas use.
Cr Armstrong said people gave up "certain privileges" when taking on the role of councillor.
"That is part of what we do: We do not get to retain the exact same set of opportunities we had to communicate or participate as citizens as we had prior to entering the chamber," she said.
Councillor Peter Beales said he had written letters to local newspapers expressing his personal views. "I clearly stated these were not the views of the council," he said.
If you are seeing this message you are a loyal digital subscriber to The Ararat Advertiser, as we made this story available only to subscribers. Thank you very much for your support and allowing us to continue telling Ararat's story. We appreciate your support of journalism in our great town.