Freedom of Speech?

For the past few weeks here in Gladstone I’ve been following the news regarding the sacking of a local council worker, Don Schmidt, who was ‘stood down’ from his job after writing a letter to the paper expressing his views on the Councils Drug and Alcohol policy. 

Basically he pointed out that if it was good enough for the workers to be drug and alcohol tested, then it was good enough for the town councillors as well.  The letter appeared in Saturdays paper about 3 weeks ago.  On the following Monday morning, Mr. Schmidt was stood down from his job without pay.

Snippets of news reached us via the paper, “The Gladstone Observer”, and we waited eagerly to hear more of what was going on.  Apparently the council CEO Mr. Kanofski, the person responsible for dismissing Mr. Schmidt, stated that councillors were technically not employed the council, but by electors, and was unable to comment any further because of a ‘gag order’ imposed by the Qld Industrial Commission.  Mr. Schmidt has also been gagged by the same order, and is relying on his union representative, Mr. Phil Golby, to defend him at this time. 

My view;  well, it’s the old saying, “I might not agree with what you have to say sir, but I will defend with my life you’re right to say it.”  Except in this case, I do agree wholeheartedly with what Mr. Schmidt had to say.  I work in an industry where everyone who walks through our gate is subject to the drug and alcohol testing policy, as it is a condition of entry to our factory.  Everyone from the contract cleaner to the CEO can be randomly selected to report to the medical centre for testing, noone is exempt. 

Mr. Schmidt pointed this out in his letter, and he used a public forum to make his point.   Councillors in our town, who were elected by the citizens to represent our interests, and who are usually very outspoken on a variety of topics have clammed up on the subect.  Each one issued a statement of “No Comment” to reporter Ren Lanzon yesterday.    

We are not living in China (well, not yet) and to the best of my knowledge we, the citizens of this country, have right to express our opinions within the confines of our laws.  Mr. Schmidt is being punished for airing his views about his workplace in a public forum (ie: Letters to the Editor), and his example will no doubt silence others with similar views.  

I am hoping for a happy outcome to this wretched affair, and that Mr. Schmidt will be re-instated, and receive backpay, but he is facing off against some powerful folk.  If, in the event he is ultimately sacked, then the ratepayers of Gladstone may choose to provide him with some company as they vote several councillors into the ranks of the unemployed at the next election.  

The full story can be found at this link:  http://www.gladstoneobserver.com.au/story/2009/07/22/would-our-councillors-agree-to-be-tested/

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