PS: Not for the first time has Lipshutz and his cronies attempted to thwart what most reasonable people would consider to be open and transparent government. Below is an image from the 2013 minutes where the groundwork for the current agenda item was laid. Please note:

  • The mover and seconder of the motion
  • How the current proposed changes to the Local Law contradicts the council resolution from that time (ie all questions answered shall be minuted. The current version implies that only those ‘read’ out will be minuted!)
  • Since this September 2013 meeting, the Local Laws Advisory committee has only met on 3 occasions – 9th April 2014; 3rd December 2014; 18th May 2015. The 2015 members of this committee were – Lipshutz, Hyams, Okotel and Lobo! Need we say more? Thus 3 meetings in two and a half years to come up with this nonsense!
  • We refer readers to our post of the time in order to assess councillors’ comments – see: https://gleneira.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/public-questions-whittling-away/

Pages from September03-2013-MINUTES

After years and years of promising to amend the Local Law there is finally an agenda item that proposes to further erode residents’ democratic rights and to make it even harder to get answers out of council. Submissions will be called for so we urge all residents to take particular notice of what is proposed and to think carefully what this will mean for transparency and accountability in Glen Eira.

Most of the changes focus on the right to ask public questions. Here is what the arch conservatives want –

  • Agenda items are posted online on Friday after 12pm. Public questions can currently be emailed to council by 12pm of the day of the council meeting (ie Tuesday). The proposal is to reduce this deadline by 24 hours (ie Monday 12pm). Even if the argument is that officers require more time to answer questions, surely this impediment can be overcome simply by publishing the agenda well before Friday afternoon so that residents can read the agenda and get their questions in earlier? Plenty of other councils publish their agenda a week prior to the formal council meeting –(Bayside, Stonnington for example).
  • Any question that is now over 150 words WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED. Previously the wording was ‘should be 150 words’ and to the best of our knowledge, no question was rejected which contained more than 150 words. Whilst some may argue that good questions should be able to be submitted below this number, there surely are occasions when detail is required and questions exceed 150 words? What this also means is that questions over 150 words will NOT BE RECORDED IN THE MINUTES. Another blow to accountability!
  • No more than 2 questions will be accepted from a single resident and they HAVE TO BE PRESENT IN THE CHAMBER FOR THEIR QUESTIONS TO BE READ OUT! Again, we are not sure whether this means that if the person is not present their questions will be recorded in the minutes. All we’re told is that the question will be answered by ‘mail or email’. We suspect that they won’t become part of the official record since another part of the proposals states that ‘The minutes will record questions read…’
  • Even the quarterly report will now only record those question read out and not the number asked!

What is extraordinary about this report is that not a single word of justification for any of the recommended changes is provided.  Why council (or rather the stacked Local Laws committee) considers any of these changes necessary and beneficial is anyone’s guess. We have no doubt that these changes are to the detriment of open and accountable government – rather ironic we feel when the state government is currently reviewing the Local Government Act with the stated intention of improving governance! We also remind readers that Delahunty is on this advisory committee!

Thus for all the promises of amending the Local Law in terms of the ‘unauthorised sporting groups’ (aka the Frisbee affair) and basic questions of Notice of Motion, that this is all that the Local Laws committee could come up with after years and years of ‘consideration’ is a disgrace. It is even more disgraceful that not a single word of justification is provided in the Corporate Counsel’s report as to why such changes are deemed to be necessary and why the new CEO has permitted such a report to even go out as the official record! All this means is the further erosion of good governance in Glen Eira and the resolve to diminish public participation even further.

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