Ordinary Meeting of Eurobodalla Council Date: June 11th 2019
Presentation by Jim Bright
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EUROBODALLA SHIRE COUNCIL
11 JUNE 2019
PUBLIC FORUM PRESENTATION BY JIM BRIGHT
ITEM – CODE OF MEETING PRACTICE
My name is Jim Bright. I'm a resident of Narooma. I'm here to speak about the proposed new 'Code of Meeting Practice'.
I'll confine my particular comments primarily to two issues – (i) the validity of the use by OLG of the expression “best practice” and (ii) the inadequacy of some important aspects of the information that is contained in the relevant Staff Report.
As even a quick perusal of the Staff Report and of the staff's responses to the public submissions (Appendix A) will reveal, the bulk of our council staff's positions on various aspects of their recommendations is based upon the apparently ready acceptance by them that OLG's non-mandatory suggestions actually do represent some type of “best practice”.
The “best practice” concept has largely been introduced into various parts of the Australian public sector from the private sector over the last thirty years or so. In the public sector environment, the classification of a particular management practice as being “best practice” would generally result from a process involving an initial survey within a particular area of activity (say the local government area) to identify those organisations that are achieving the best outcomes for the communities that they serve and are responsible for in certain areas of their activities. After identifying the top performers, the next step is to carefully analyse and 'drill down' into the operations of those organisations in order to reach an understanding of the internal practices that produce the desirable outcomes. This information on “best practice” would then be made available to other relevant organisations for their consideration.
My assessment of the available facts and information would suggest to me that OLG has not made the case for its claims that its views on non-mandatory meeting practices justify its adoption of the term “best practice”. My observation and analysis, over the last few years, of OLG's propensity to frequently and conveniently label its particular views as representing “best practice” is probably nothing other than a way of 'tarting up' those views in order to induce acceptance of them and to discourage challenges to them.
There is no evidence that I can find on the OLG website to suggest that any reasonable type of “best practice” identification process has in fact been undertaken by OLG in recent years. The 'stakeholder' consultation process that it undertook during 2018 in the lead up to the issuing of its new model code last December was not a “best practice” identification process. I expect that what is claimed by OLG to be “best practice” is probably little more than the views of some officers in the Council Governance Unit of OLG.
The adequacy of the Staff Report
Upon reading the Staff Report last Thursday, I was immediately struck by the obvious lack of any advice to our councillors on what other councils in NSW might have decided to do on the question of the locally very contentious issue of the proposed cessation of the webcast of the Public Forum.
Without a great deal of effort, I was quickly able to establish that, in the case of the councils that surround us, the Shoalhaven and Queanbeyan Palerang councils have already adopted their new codes including the continuation of the live streaming of their public forums. Tomorrow, the Bega Valley Shire Council will decide on its new code and the recommendation in the relevant report is that it should also continue the live streaming of its public forum.
I then looked a little further afield to the Wollongong City Council – the council that was the model that this council used in 2014 when it first decided to live-stream our meetings and public forums. Sure enough, that council has also approved the continuation of the live-streaming of its public forum. Even when to you start to look further west to the likes of Wagga Council, what you still find are decisions to continue live streaming of this forum. In fact, so far, I've not been able to identify any other council, that was previously doing this, that has decided to now change!
It is also worth noting that the majority (possibly all) of these councils will also be conducting their public forums on the same day as their council meetings.
Now if I was a councillor being confronted with the clearly controversial and unpopular proposition that I should approve the cessation of live-streaming of public forum and move it to a non meeting day, I would very much expect to have been provided with this type of information. The GM's failure to have done this is remarkable and you should be demanding an explanation and assurances about future practices.