Wagga City Councillor Michael Henderson has put the proposed debate over banning a controversial sex education book from the City Library on hold.
“I will officially withdraw my Notice of Motion to do with the book Welcome to Sex at tonight’s ordinary council meeting,” he said, reading a prepared statement to the local media.
“However, this is also a notification, everyone’s concerned and particularly the public.
“There will be, absolutely, a Notice of Motion on this subject brought forward by me and tabled at a future ordinary council meeting.”
The original Notice of Motion was revealed on Thursday when the council business papers were released and included the call to remove the title Welcome to Sex: Your No-Silly-Questions Guide to Sexuality, Pleasure and Figuring It Out, written by Dr Melissa Kang and Yumi Stynes, with illustrations by Jenny Latham.
The book is described as an “age-appropriate introduction to sex and sexuality pitched at teenagers aged between 12 and 15”, although co-author Stynes has said that it would be appropriate for a “mature eight-year-old”.
Debate over the book’s frank descriptions of sexual activity and its availability to children has raged since it was published earlier this year and it has become embroiled in the ongoing ”culture wars” between conservative commentators and progressives.
Several councils have debated its suitability for public libraries, and retail giant Big W chose the remove the title from its shelves, claiming that staff were being harassed.
Cr Henderson explained that his decision to withdraw the motion was due to both community interest and the absence of several councillors at tonight’s meeting.
“Extra information has been forthcoming and supplied to me in the past couple of days, which appears to only strengthen the case to remove this book altogether or from its current section in the regional library where the book is currently available,” he said.
“As this is a sensitive subject and a serious one for the local community in general, I believe we need to have more councillors present to discuss and vote on this major issue.”
Council general manager Peter Thompson, Mayor Dallas Tout and Cr Georgie Davies will be absent along with Cr Rod Kendall, who is sitting out a one-month suspension.
“I believe it’s appropriate that this discussion takes place when we have a full attendance of councillors and the Wagga Wagga general manager,” he concluded and declined to answer further questions.
Cr Dan Hayes has been outspoken in his opposition to banning the book and labelled the move to defer the debate as “nonsensical”.
“He’s made the ridiculous into the absurd now and this shows that he doesn’t understand how council works,” he said.
“We have a number of items on the agenda tonight, serious items, and he’s not trying to withdraw them, so this makes no sense.”
Cr Hayes said that now that the issue had been raised, it should be addressed sooner rather than later.
“He says he has new information that strengthens his argument, but if this book is so dangerous, and he has even more information, it doesn’t make sense to defer this for potentially months on end,” he said.
“This should never have been put on the agenda, but now that it has, it should absolutely be debated, and I look forward to it being voted down significantly regardless of how many councillors are there.”
Region launched a poll over the weekend, asking “Should Wagga City Library remove the Welcome to Sex book from its collections?” and the response has been almost evenly divided.
As of Monday, a narrow majority of respondents said “the book is educational and should remain”, while slightly fewer agreed that “the book is inappropriate and should be removed”.