The West Australian exclusive

Nedlands mayor Fiona Argyle storms out of meeting after sexism in the chamber allegation

Headshot of Matt Zis
Matt ZisPerthNow - Western Suburbs
Nedlands Mayor Fiona Argyle.
Camera IconNedlands Mayor Fiona Argyle. Credit: Andrew Ritchie/ Andrew Ritchie

Nedlands mayor Fiona Argyle stormed out of a public meeting on Monday, but not before firing a broadside about misogyny at some who remained in the room.

It was the second walkout in as many meetings of the troubled council’s audit and risk committee this year, after former chairman Leo McManus quit his post midway through a meeting last month due to differences over how to fix the council’s failed audit.

And it is not the first time the mayor has made a point of calling out what she claims as sexist behaviour in council chambers.

Her outburst at this week’s audit and risk committee meeting followed a vote to accept the minutes of a fiery previous meeting, a vote that was split 4-3 along gender lines, with four men in favour of the minutes being a true and accurate reflection of the meeting and three women voting against.

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It was not immediately clear what in the recorded minutes caused the split but Ms Argyle took umbrage to reaction after the vote.

“Can we stop the smirking please,” she called out twice.

When newly appointed chair of the committee Cr Fergus Bennett called for calm and order, Cr Argyle continued “no, I don’t want to see men smirking, it’s 2024, we’ve moved on from ... I’ve had enough”.

When Cr Bennett pleaded directly with the mayor to be quiet and “please respect the chamber, even if you don’t respect the people in it, respect the chamber”, Ms Argyle retaliated with a lewd comment that harked back to a past squabble from 2021.

“Is that what you said when you said to me ‘do you think your ... is bigger than mine?’” she retorted.

The remark drew groans, a query about whether the audio and video recording was on — it was — and then, a walkout by the mayor.

“I’m going to leave, thank you very much for having me but I can’t stand the sexism anymore in this chamber,” she said.

“I’m leaving, good night.”

The meeting continued without further incident.

Those remaining discussed a plan to hire a second short-term accountant to help sort out Nedlands’ failed audit matters and the need to increase the frequency of meetings from quarterly to fortnightly throughout the audit crisis.

Independent auditor Craig Ross, who only started on a short-term contract last week, also spoke publicly for the first time about his plan to address the audit findings.

Mr Ross’ controversial appointment followed bickering among the committee last month over the best response to the audit findings.

Nedlands council staff had recommended hiring four people to catch-up on the books, a request that split the council.

Ultimately they instead appointed Mr Ross to review the audit findings.

Ms Argyle did not attend two further meetings of council the following night, with deputy mayor Kerry Smyth called upon to act as the meeting chairperson.

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