Latrobe City councillor Christine Sindt’s continued public comments about Islam are drawing further community outrage, with allegations she is in breach of council’s social media policy and damaging the reputation of the region.
During an interview with ABC Melbourne radio host Jon Faine yesterday morning, Cr Sindt was asked whether she distinguished the difference between the Islamic community and radical extremists, to which she replied “to me, it’s pretty much the same”.
Committee for Gippsland chief executive Mary Aldred said she had been approached by a number of Latrobe Valley businesses who feared Cr Sindt’s comments were damaging the region’s reputation and could hinder investment.
“There are a number of projects in the Latrobe Valley which have a strong degree of international investment and involvement and we need that as a region,” Ms Aldred said.
“This is one individual view and it’s incumbent on everyone in the community to say this is wrong and it doesn’t represent Gippsland.”
Fellow councillor Kellie O’Callaghan labelled Cr Sindt’s radio comment as “outrageous”.
“I’m disappointed my council colleague has now exposed the Latrobe Valley to further criticism should her extreme views be accepted as those of the wider community,” Cr O’Callaghan said.
“Persecuting people based on their faith is not what the Valley is about. It’s not what the people of the Valley are about.
“For the most part we pride ourselves on giving people a fair go and we know that radical extremists have taken advantage of that.
“How and why this has happened are questions the Federal Government and security agencies need to answer.
“Cr Sindt does not need to join this debate and perpetuate the myth that all Muslims are violent and a threat to our way of life.”
Cr Sindt’s official Facebook page has in recent days featured multiple posts referring to Islam.
The contents of the page have prompted Moe resident Brendan Brentwood to lodge a complaint with Latrobe City chief executive Gary van Driel, arguing Cr Sindt has breached council’s social media policy by posting “discriminatory” information.
The policy states councillors, staff, contractors and volunteers must “ensure material that is obscene, defamatory, threatening, harassing, discriminatory or hateful to another person or entity is not posted, or is removed if posted by a user”.
“I have no problem with people criticising religion, but when it’s done in a manner that becomes spiteful by someone in her position, I feel it is neglecting her role as a councillor,” Mr Brentwood said.
“I think she is definitely overstepping her mandate.”
Mr Brentwood said he emailed a complaint to Mr van Driel and intends to meet with council officers in person.
“I don’t support Shariah Law either, but I do support inclusive policy, particularly in a region that needs propping up by refugees to continue to prosper,” he said.
Cr Sindt said all the business people she had met had been fully supportive of her comments and every single person she had seen face-to-face said “good on you, keep fighting the good fight”.
In response to Cr O’Callaghan’s comments, she said declaring Latrobe Valley a refugee welcome zone should not have been on the council agenda (2 March) and she voted according to her conscience.
Cr Sindt said Mr Brentwood was welcome to lodge a complaint against her and that complaints would “go through the proper democratic process”.
She said she believed the contents of her Facebook page were factual.