BULLYING SUBMISSION: Southern Downs mayor Tracy Dobie said she encouraged everyone to contribute to the statewide Anti-cyberbully Taskforce, but some say council's submission missed the point.
BULLYING SUBMISSION: Southern Downs mayor Tracy Dobie said she encouraged everyone to contribute to the statewide Anti-cyberbully Taskforce, but some say council's submission missed the point. Marian Faa

TOUGHEN UP: MP slams council bullying claims

THE latest move in the Southern Downs Regional Council's crusade against online attackers has been slammed, with one MP saying politicians should not use cyberbullying claims to escape public criticism.

Member for Southern Downs James Lister said 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.

The Queensland Anti-cyberbullying Taskforce is undertaking public consultation to "seek community views about how to prevent and respond to cyberbullying of people up to the age of 25.

It comes in the wake of Warwick schoolgirl Dolly Everett's tragic death, which was linked to the torment she experienced at the hands of cyberbullies.

But Mr Lister said the council had used the task force as an opportunity to vent its own problems with persistent online critics.

 

LNP candidate James Lister and SDRC Mayor Tracy Dobie at the Chaplaincy dinner at the Granite Belt Brewery on Friday, October 6.
BULLYING STOUSH: 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

He said equating bullying with online criticism against politicians was "the lowest thing" a person in public office could do.

"Any attempt to stifle criticism of politicians or public administration by calling it bullying is unacceptable," Mr Lister said.

The council's recommendations to the Queensland Anti-cyberbullying Taskforce were voted in by Southern Downs councillors on Wednesday.

"A bully celebrates creating misery or conflict in the life of an individual, or in the case of an organisation seeks to highlight the failings of an organisation in all instances, usually focussing on the elected officials or senior management," the submission reads.

But Mr Lister said politicians' abilities to rise above criticism was a mark of their suitability for office.

"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," he said.

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

 

STOP THE BULLYING: The dangers of new technologies for young people is what concerns mental health agencies such as Headspace.
IN CYBERSPACE: The statewide taskforce aims to address the affects of cyberbullying on people under the age of 25. Thinkstock

"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.

The council submission also targets local media.

"Many cyberbullies have identified local newspapers as an ideal location to humiliate and bully individuals online," it reads.

The mayor said local media had a responsibility to uphold policies and procedures designed to prevent the misuse of online platforms.

But Warwick mother Jenny Topp said the council's submission seemed to miss the point of the youth-focussed taskforce.

Ms Topp had to protect her teenage daughter from vicious online attacks and hoped the taskforce would put the spotlight on parents.

"I think it's up to the parents to monitor their children more closely. It is up to us as parents to make our children aware the power is in their finger to block, delete or shut down," she said.

Ms Topp said she agreed with the council's call to identify bullies, but thought the council had diverted attention away from youth.

"It seems more like they are trying to stop people from picking on them rather than stop people from picking on young people," Ms Topp said.

 

Q: What do you think of the upcoming postal vote on same-sex marriage? A: I believe that the Australian people were promised a direct say in this decision and the government has to keep its word. James Lister
LISTER LASHES OUT: James Lister has spoken out against the council's submission to the taskforce, saying politicians should not attempt to 'stifle criticism'. Kim Micke

She said local media and newspapers were not a common platform used by people to bully young people.

But the mayor said repeated, personal attacks designed to harm an organisation needed to stop.

"That is no different to the definition of bullying of an individual," the mayor said.

Since launching her own campaign against cyberbullying, the mayor said she had received positive feedback from the community.

"I've had mothers express their gratitude for what we as council are putting out there," Cr Dobie said.

"Since that campaign the quantity of bullying against myself has dropped quite dramatically and I am convinced that campaign has worked."

 

Problem for parents in the digital age
BIG ISSUE: Warwick mother Jenny Topp said parents needed to be held accountable and bullies needed to be "outed”. MachineHeadz

Former mayor Ron Bellingham said the controversies faced by councillors were a deterrent to people running for public office.

"That is a real shame I think," Mr Bellingham said.

"I am more concerned with the youth of the community and the country who are subjected to this indiscriminate bullying and do not have the wherewithal to be able to deal with it."

Mr Lister said politicians had to expect the criticism and get on with the job.

"I don't feel equating the plight of politicians and administrators with those of more vulnerable victims of bullying is of any assistance," he said.

"I applaud any support for tackling cyberbullying of people who are vulnerable, but that does not include politicians in my view."

If you need help, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800