Online bullying and harassment of Tasmanian councillors has prompted calls for the state government to conduct a review of workplace health and safety protections that exist for local government.
The matter was discussed at the Local Government Association of Tasmania's annual conference on Thursday, with the organisation calling on government to ensure that local mayors and councillors could attend to their public duties in safe and respectful workplaces.
The original motion stated that several female councillors had resigned in 2019 due to online bullying and harassment and requested that the Equal Opportunity Commission look at the issue.
This bullying prompted the signing of a joint statement by from more than 40 council representatives expressing concerns about workplace culture, particularly for women.
Northern Midlands mayor Mary Knowles said at the LGAT meeting that a majority of Tasmanian councillors, both male and female, had been subjected to some sort of abuse or harassment in their council workplaces.
She said there was a complete lack of respect on social media for councillors, which had also extended to traditional media broadcasts
"Sure, we put our necks out there when we stand for public office but the past five years has seen [a rise] of hate speech and a total disrespect from keyboard warriors," Mayor Knowles said.
"It is not fair that our protection is a slap on the wrist in a Code of Conduct, or spending thousands of dollars in a local court case."
Hobart mayor Anna Reynolds, whose council raised the motion, said robust debate and diverse perspectives are expected in politics, but personal attacks were not acceptable.
She said conducting a review would ensure that council workplaces were safe for all elected members, and followed similar work in other jurisdictions.
"It is not okay when the debate becomes personal and focuses on people's attributes rather than people's policies," she said.
"Around the country and here in Tasmania governments and parliaments and companies are initiating similar inquiries ... the Tasmanian parliament have initiated an inquiry, not based on actual cases, but they want people to have confidence in the parliament as an institution.
"It is important that we are proactive rather than preventative ... being proactive will help ensure that problems will not go undetected."
The motion calling on the government to "commission a review of workplace health and safety of the local government sector" received overwhelming support from councils, with 52 voting for the motion and 6 voting against.