Is council digging a deeper hole?

The Beagle Editor,


Council responds to claim of non compliance with meeting procedure.


The published agenda for the last council meeting(Dec 12), listed item PSR17/073 as,

“Seek expressions of interest within the business community to fill the vacancy on the Batemans Bay Mackay Park Precinct Sunset Committee.”

However, at the actual council meeting, the item was introduced by the Chair as:

“I put agenda item PSR17/073 .........., Mackay Park Sunset Committee, moved by Councillor Brown with an amendment, seconded by Councillor Constable.”

The public had no idea what the ‘amendment’ was, until Clr Constable read it out 10 minutes later:

“At this time not fill the vacancy on the Batemans Bay Mackay Park Precinct Sunset Committee.”

This amended recommendation/motion is totally different to that published in the agenda, and to which members of the public spoke in their presentations.

As this ‘amendment’ was not put forward or addressed during the public council meeting, one can only assume that it occurred during the pre meeting briefing.

However, this would be in breach of the Model Code and Council’s Code of Meeting Practice.

In regard to briefings, Council’s Code states:

4) Briefing papers contain information but no recommendations.

5) No recommendations are to be put to, and no agreement sought from councillors

6) No decision-making process can form part of any particular briefing. Briefings do not have any decision-making authority or powers

7) Briefings should not be used for ....... discussions where agreement is reached and/or a (de-facto) decision is made.

In addition, Meetings Practice Note Aug 2009 states, “Any amendment to a motion must not alter the motion to the extent that it effectively reverses the motion.”

As the intent of the original recommendation was to fill the vacancy on the committee, the amended motion ‘effectively reverses the motion,’ as its intent is to not fill the vacancy.


Staff recommendations in Council reports that form part of the agenda are only that, recommendations. As the decision (making) body, Councillors have the right to change a recommendation by moving an alternate motion. Once this is moved and seconded it becomes the motion. The Chair will ask Councillors if there is any debate on the motion. After any debate has taken place, the motion is put to a vote. If there is no debate the motion is voted on. (Yup. Okay. Thanks for the lecture, but this is supposed to occur during the public meeting, not the briefing.)

Agenda item PS17/073 Mackay Park Precinct Redevelopment, Mackay Park Sunset Committee report staff recommendation was changed by the moving and subsequent seconding of an alternate motion to the staff recommendation. As this was not by an amendment to a motion it complies with Council’s Code of Meeting Practice and the Draft Model Code of Meeting Practice.

(Whether it is an ‘alternate motion’ or an ‘amendment’, it does not comply with either Code when it is moved and seconded at a pre meeting briefing.)

The Mayor, Councillor Mayne and Councillor Constable used the word amendment in the context of the change to the staff recommendation, not an amendment to a motion. It is regrettable that the term amendment in this context has caused confusion.

(It is not just the terminology that is regrettable!)

Your statement ‘briefings are not to be used for decision making or advanced discussions where agreements are reached’ is correct. There was no decision made or agreement reached at the briefing prior to the Council meeting.

If there was no decision or agreement prior to the Council meeting,

* When was this “alternate motion” put by Councillor Brown?

* When was this “alternate motion” seconded by Councillor Constable?

* When was the original staff recommendation replaced by this “alternate motion”?


And what the hell is an “alternate motion” anyway? – The one you have when you’re not having a motion? Name and address supplied

Above: It might be time to put down the shovel

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