COUNCILLOR LIABILITY FOR ACTIONS AND STATEMENTS
Councillors, unlike state and federal members of parliament, do not have parliamentary privilege. A councillor can be subject to civil action by a person who considers that the councillor has defamed them or has acted in a way that improperly harms them, whether this occurs in the council chamber or not.
Section 76 of the Local Government Act 1989 requires that each council indemnify its councillors against actions and claims made while conducting their duties in good faith. This is not the same as parliamentary privilege and cannot be relied upon as a general protection.
CIVIL ACTION AND COUNCILLOR LIABILITY
Councillors should be very careful, especially in the heat of a council debate, not to make defamatory statements which could give rise to a civil action.
If a councillor is subject to a civil action, he or she will have to deal with the matter as an individual even if the council is paying the legal costs. In some cases the council, or its insurers, may refuse to provide indemnity for the councillor’s actions or statement. This is because the councillor’s action or statement was either not considered to have occurred in the course of performing a council duty or to be done in good faith.