VIDEO: Peter Cormick addresses Council Sept 25th 2018 PUBLIC FORUM, 25 SEPTEMBER 2018 - PETER CORMICK
AGENDA ITEM NOM18/013 WEBCAST OF PUBLIC ACCESS SESSION
Five months ago, when I was last in this chamber, I advocated for the webcasting of what is known as the Public Access session, which, for those who don’t know, takes place in the half hour prior to the meeting commencing, providing members of the community with the opportunity to make presentations and ask questions of council, on council-related matters that are not listed on the meeting agenda.
I am here again, to take advantage of Councillor McGinlay’s much appreciated Notice of Motion to have the Public Access session webcast. In putting this motion forward he will be providing councillors with their first opportunity to vote in favour of enabling this webcasting to take place.
Because the Public Access sessions are currently not webcast, those people within the community who follow council affairs, who are at home waiting to watch the webcast of the meeting itself - which commences at 10 am - would have no idea whether, or in fact if, there are other members of our community who, at the same time, are addressing council, during the half hour leading up to the meeting. Yet, with the simple flick of a switch those presentations would immediately become available for all to see and hear. Then, as the meeting commences, the webcasting would continue, uninterrupted, including the first agenda item of Public Forum. Such an arrangement makes perfect sense. The present arrangement makes no sense.
Both the Public Access and Public Forum sessions provide the community with a unique opportunity to meet and engage, first hand, with their representatives, in their collective form – as the governing body.
Clearly, the presentations by community members during these sessions, and the involvement of councillors, to whatever extent that might be, is very much a matter of public interest - and should as a matter of course be given the widest possible coverage. What possible argument could there be to do otherwise?
For those of you who are disinclined or completely opposed to allowing the webcasting that Councillor McGinlay will be putting to you a little later, I ask you to please, genuinely, reflect on why you are here, as our representatives; and to reflect on the oath you took on assuming office and the obligations imposed on you by the Local Government Act. You all have a clearly defined obligation to facilitate engagement with the community and to be proactive in so doing.
Council’s Community Engagement Framework is an impressive document – in what it aspires to achieve. The charter under which it operates recognises that engagement is a two-way street, requiring of council that it will be “transparent, proactive, available, genuine and consistent”. And it asks of the community to be “informed, to ask questions, get involved”. What better forum for all of these goals to realised, together, than in this forum, in this chamber, where the community and its representatives actually share the same physical space and have an opportunity to interact. And why on earth should such an engagement not be shared shire-wide?
After all, on its website, council advises that “We provide on-demand video and audio of Council meetings through this internet-based live streaming service ... [which] allows you greater access to Council proceedings, decisions and debate and eliminates the geographic barriers that prevent some people from attending our meetings.”
There is simply no sensible reason for public access not to be webcast.
Please, let us not hear “Council is not required to even provide a public forum, let alone webcast it.” Any councillor who takes that position, or finds public presentations a nuisance, really doesn’t get it, and should not be here in this chamber.
So, finally, those of you who are genuine about engaging with your community, please vote in support of Councillor McGinlay’s motion when it comes up. Those of you who decide not to support it, please, as a courtesy, give your reasons, publically.