Press Council Member Refuses To Step Down Following Conflict Of Interest Review

Press Council Member Refuses To Step Down Following Conflict Of Interest Review
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The Australian Press Council has asked left-wing activist Carla McGrath to resign as a member after finding a conflict of interest.

The Press Council completed its review of formal declarations by all of its members as to potential conflicts of interest at its quarterly meeting in Sydney on Friday.

The review follows the decision by the Press Council in December 2017 to revise its existing practices and approve an overarching conflict of interest policy.

As part of the new policy and procedures, the Press Council examined written declarations submitted by all council members as to their affiliations and decided that McGrath’s position as deputy chair of GetUp! is incompatible with her continued role as a public member of the council.

“In a resolution passed by council, Ms McGrath was asked to resign. However, Ms McGrath said she did not believe her resignation was necessary,” the Press Council said in a statement.

“Council will now take the steps to remove Ms McGrath as a public member of council in accordance with the constitution, a process which should be completed at the next council meeting in August.”

Press Council chair Neville Stevens said public members need to not only reflect the community, but also be independent and be seen as independent.

“The council noted that GetUp! has taken a public position on a range of issues and takes action on these including raising funds for and actively campaigning against some sitting politicians,” he said.

“The council considered that the nature and extent of these activities result in a conflict between Carla McGrath’s interest as deputy chair of GetUp! and her duties as a public member of the council, which is irreconcilable and likely to continue.

“This will inevitably give rise to the perception of a lack of independence of the council itself.”

As a respected member of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, Stevens acknowledged that McGrath would have brought an important perspective to the work of the council.

However, he emphasised the overriding need for the Press Council to be independent and to be seen to be independent.

The Press Council said it remains committed to increasing diversity among its public members and adjudication panel members.

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