FORMER Moyne Shire mayor Gerald Madden has issued a full apology for comments he made disparaging Warrnambool City’s female councillors last week on ABC Radio.
In a letter to The Standard, Mr Madden agreed his comments in last week’s interview “were entirely inappropriate” and that he “should unreservedly apologise”.
The matter arose after Mr Madden said on radio last Tuesday that “I don’t think the two female councillors are that smart that they could bring up the wording themselves”, referring to Warrnambool City councillors Jacinta Ermacora and Kylie Gaston.
The comments drew outrage from the two councillors, Warrnambool City Council’s chief executive Bruce Anson and a women’s health organisation, with three local government groups — the Victorian Local Governance Association, the Municipal Association of Victoria, and the Australian Local Government Women’s Association — also joining the chorus yesterday prior to Mr Madden issuing his apology.
In his letter, Mr Madden expressed regret about the offence caused and backed away from his suggestion that Mr Anson was behind a motion put forward by councillors Ermacora and Gaston at a recent council meeting regarding the Warrnambool saleyards.
“It has become clear to me that my comments in an interview on ABC Radio on Tuesday, April 29 were entirely inappropriate and certainly capable of causing offence,” he wrote.
“Though this was not my intention, I realise that I should unreservedly apologise for them and I hereby do so.
“I also confirm that I reacted to assertions as to the authorship of the amendments to the councillor motions without any evidence of same ... I now accept the word of those involved with the moving of the amendments.”
He also confirmed that he was not representing the Warrnambool Stock Agents’ Association and the views expressed in the interview were his own.
“The words, ill-chosen, as they were, (were) my own and for which I take full responsibility,” Mr Madden said.
The full apology comes as three local government associations weighed in on the matter.
In a press release issued to The Standard yesterday, Municipal Association of Victoria president Bill McArthur called Mr Madden’s put-down of councillors Gaston and Ermacora “extremely offensive and inappropriate”.
“To suggest that a female councillor could not fulfil their role in a satisfactory manner, purely because they are female, is discriminatory, offensive and takes our society three steps back in terms of gender equality,” Cr McArthur said.
Likewise, Australian Local Government Women’s Association said it “strongly condemns the sexist and disparaging comments” and called for a full apology yesterday, adding “there is no place in the 21st century for the sexist remarks made by Mr Madden, nor his allegations regarding the competency of the councillors”.
Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA) president Sebastian Klein said in a press release that Mr Madden’s comments were concerning and seem “to question the ability of women to perform in the role of local councillor”.
“The VLGA strongly believes that any judgement about the ability and performance of a councillor should be based purely on their actions and not their gender,” Cr Klein said.