28 February 2023

Wagga City Council calls for apology from Wes Fang over 'childish' comments

| Chris Roe
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Wes Fang and Dallas Tout

MLC Wes Fang says he won’t apologise for claims Mayor Dallas Tout has “misled” the community. Photo: Chris Roe.

Wagga Mayor Dallas Tout will seek an apology from National Party MLC Wes Fang over accusations that he misled the community over correspondence with the State Government on the sale of the decommissioned Johnston Street Ambulance Station.

“As with all relationships, apologies that are forthcoming need to be sincere, faithful and impartial,” Cr Tout said.

“One can be requested, but whether that is forthcoming or not, it’s not up to me, it’s up to Mr Fang.”

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Speaking to Region today, Mr Fang declared that there would be no apology.

“To spend this much time at a council meeting debating me, I think speaks for itself and only goes to prove the point that I was making, which is that Wagga City Council is childish,” he said.

“They won’t be getting an apology from me.”

The comments in question relate to the ongoing stoush over the State Government’s decision to sell the former ambulance asset to the community at half its appraised value, rather than a token amount of $1 as was subsequently done in other LGAs.

At a previous meeting, Cr Tout said he had not received a formal response to two email requests to the Premier, other than to refer his first inquiry to the Health Minister.

Mr Fang hit back, saying that no follow-up email had been received and accused Cr Tout of “almost deliberately misleading the Wagga population”.

He also described the council’s behaviour on the matter as “childish”.

Council meeting

Wagga City Council voted unanimously to call for an apology from Mr Fang. Photo: WWCC, Facebook.

On Monday night, Cr Tout reiterated the sequence of his correspondence with the Department of Premier and Cabinet and defended his own integrity.

“Personally, I deal with any council business with the utmost of respect to the community who has charged us as elected representatives to represent them and act accordingly,” he said.

“I would in no way act in any way so as to ‘almost deliberately mislead'”.

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Councillor Rod Kendall was less circumspect, describing Mr Fang’s comments as morally offensive.

“To me, it effectively says that Mr Fang has lied, or at least misled the public of Wagga, in relation to our timely communication with State Parliament,” he said.

“I don’t appreciate being called childish when, in fact, what we were undertaking was a mature information-finding session.”

Reflecting on Monday’s meeting, Cr Kendall said they were still waiting for an answer on why other councils were treated differently when buying State Government assets.

“In this particular case, we believe we have a special reason to get the asset returned to the Wagga public because the Wagga public paid for it and then gave that asset to the State Government originally,” he said.

“So first, we want an explanation. Whether Wes wants to apologise for his own childish behaviour is up to Wes.”

Rod Kendall

Cr Rod Kendall said Mr Fang had behaved in a morally offensive manner. Photo: Chris Roe.

Rather than apologise, Mr Fang said today that the council should “grow up”.

“Wagga City Council does not always have the ratepayers of Wagga in mind,” he said.

“They are often inward-looking and focused on themselves as opposed to the issues that are really important.”

When pressed over whether he would take back his accusation that Cr Tout had misled the council, he doubled down.

“He knows what he told me around this admission and that he had a bounce-back initially from the first [email] attempt, and that he never followed up,” he explained.

“I told him that nobody in the State Government received a second email and yet he did not make either of those points clear, which I believe was disingenuous and deliberately done to mislead the public.”

Cr Tout referred all further inquiries on the matter to his statement as recorded in the council minutes.

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