SHOCKED: Joel Richters believes council has been subjected to personal attacks online.
SHOCKED: Joel Richters believes council has been subjected to personal attacks online. Sophie Lester

Former candidate slams critics of council's bullying crusade

RESIDENTS applauded Member for Southern Downs James Lister this week after he criticised the Southern Downs Regional Council's crusade against online attackers, but one man has been vocal in his disapproval of the MP's comments.

Joel Richters, who was the Labor candidate at last year's state election, said it was not sending the right message to say politicians needed to accept the online behaviour he believed were personal attacks.

"Criticism about decisions that have been made by the government is fine, criticisms when they are repetitive with the intent to harm another person (are not)," he said.

"You can put forth your objections to things and be part of the narrative but when you constantly provide negative feedback with the intent to harm another person, you've got to draw a line there."

Mr Richters said he had seen what he considered to be personal attacks aimed at the councillors, but was unable to name a specific example.

Earlier this week Mr Lister said politicians should not use cyberbullying claims to escape public criticism.

A statewide task force to combat the effects on online bullying on young people was an inappropriate place for the council to address its issues with the online community, he said.

"Politicians are not victims, and criticism, even when it is ill-informed or mischievous or unflattering, is something that politicians have to accept - no ifs and no buts," Mr Lister said.

 

Southern Downs MP James Lister has come out to condemn an application the Southern Downs Regional Council has made to the anti-bullying taskforce. Mayor Tracy Dobie said the application follows incessant bullying of the council online.
Southern Downs MP James Lister has come out to condemn an application the Southern Downs Regional Council has made to the anti-bullying taskforce. Mayor Tracy Dobie said the application follows incessant bullying of the council online. Kim Micke

But Mr Richters said the task force submission was a chance to highlight examples adults set for others.

"It's a good opportunity for the council to highlight how the community interacts on social media and that should be to benefit the whole community not pull down individuals," he said.

Southern Downs mayor Tracy Dobie this week said the council's submission referred to the "persistent, non-stop attacks intended to harm councillors and the council's reputation".

"Our organisation is putting in a submission just as any individual or organisation is being invited to do," Cr Dobie said.

Recommendations outlined in the council's submission include educating children and the public, identifying bullies and making managers of Facebook pages and websites liable for comments posted by online users.

Cr Dobie said bullying had become an all-encompassing societal issue that needed to be addressed at all levels, including local government.

"In Australia we have grown accustomed to seeing every level of our society heavily criticised," Cr Dobie said.

"I don't just mean some criticism. I mean to the extent of bullying.

"It is becoming a habit. If we have an expectation that we are going to stop bullying amongst our children then we must set an exemplary standards for our children and say no to bullying at every level."

But many residents spoke out in support of Mr Lister's stance.

On social media, Murray Walker praised Mr Lister for his leadership.

"A politician with intestinal fortitude, I think there may be hope for us yet. Thank you James Lister," he said.

Donna Cecil said Mr Lister set a good example as a politician.

"James takes criticism and hasn't pulled the bully card," she said.

"It comes with the job that you choose to run for in an election. Nobody forces you to do it. If you can't handle criticism you shouldn't run."



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