ONLINE trolling, defamatory jabs and verbal abuse has marred council elections campaigns across the state with candidates targeted by bad behaviour calling for an end to the vitriol.
Kempsey Shire candidate Sue McGinn, who has served two terms on council over nine years, was the target of behaviour outside a pre-polling station in South West Rocks this week, that resulted in an intervention by the police.
Police confirmed an incident occurred on December 2 at 12.10pm outside the community hall between a 57-year-old woman and an 83-year-old woman.
It is alleged an altercation occurred and bystanders had to intervene. Police spoke with the 83-year-old woman and no formal action is being taken, a NSW Police spokesperson said.
Sue McGinn said the confrontation was 'unprovoked' and occurred as she was talking with a voter outside the pre-polling station.
Police spoke to several witnesses after the matter was formally reported to the police by the electoral officer inside the polling station.
"This sort of appalling behaviour is just not good enough and is a terrible reflection on our community and what we are being elected to do for our community," she said.
"There has been online trolling, I have had to ban people on my Facebook page, but this (incident) took me by surprise."
Ms McGinn said people do not have the right to abuse any candidate or attack them personally. She said an election is an opportunity for people to express their views at the ballot box.
In a letter to the Argus this week, Ms Ginn said the 'vile posts reflect the values of those who post them' and as a community it is time to step up and challenge the bad behaviour.
"This is a sad reflection of a minority in the community who think it's okay to put others down in order to support their preferred candidates...We are better than this," she said.
When the election is declared, the eight elected Kempsey councillors will undergo a formal induction process with the general manager who will make clear the rules under which they all must conduct themselves as representatives for the community.
NSW councils are bound by the 2018 Model Code of Conduct and Procedures for the Administration of the Model Code of Conduct provided through the NSW Office of Local Government. It applies to more than 45,000 staff and nearly 1,300 councillors at 128 councils across NSW.
The Code states, among other things as minimum requirements, that council officials conduct themselves in a manner that will not bring the council into disrepute.
It has also set new standards relating to discrimination, harassment and bullying, constituted by behaviour that offends, humiliates or intimidates a person or creates a hostile environment.
The Code also defines what are deemed inappropriate actions including "making personal attacks on council staff or engaging in conduct towards staff that would be contrary to the general conduct provisions ... of this code in public forums including social media".
Failure by a member of staff to comply with council's Code of Conduct may give rise to disciplinary action, it states further, and any information in relation to allegations about a suspected breach is not to be disclosed to the public.
Local Government Minister and South Coast MP Shelley Hancock said it does take a thick hide to beat the trolls.
"I've been in this game now for a long time. I was first elected into Shoalhaven City Council in 1987. And I'm still here in the state parliament, and during campaigning the opposition and the other forces on social media were pretty horrendous in the things they said about me.
"You either weather the storm, or you get out there and say it's not true."
Voters go to the polls on Saturday, December 4.
The distribution of preferences will start on December 21 with the progressive declaration of results through until December 23.
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