about a town square near us …

The Beagle Editor, In light of Eurobodalla Council removing video webcasting, recording and archiving of your Public Forum sessions readers might be interested in our latest media release: about a town square near us …

The Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association (BVSRRA) would not normally seek to intrude or comment on the affairs of another shire, unless invited by its residents & ratepayers to do so, or unless there is a common interest involved.

Having said that, when ABC Radio decides to impose the partisan views of the Mayor of the Eurobodalla Shire on the residents of the south east, then the BVSRRA is prepared to make an exception.

So it was that last Wednesday the ABC provided a platform to Eurobodalla Mayor Liz Innes to spruik the case for the previous day’s decision by council to bring an end to the live streaming of Public Forums, historically an integral part of ordinary meetings of council.

The BVSRRA believes that Cr Innes’ remarks were self-serving, disingenuous & offensive.

AUDIO: Eurobodalla Mayor Liz Innes speaks with Simon Lauder of ABC South East Radio June 12th, 2019 Recorded under Fair Dealing All copy right remains with ABC

Referring to submissions made to council during council’s Public Forum, Cr Innes claimed that …

“… usually, we don’t hear a lot at that end of the process from those in our community that are generally content or happy with the decision or the recommendations that are going forward. It is generally only those people that are unhappy with what the decision may be.” Liz Innes

Even if such a claim could be substantiated, so what?

Of course the BVSRRA acknowledges that there are politicians in our country today who claim to be able to channel “quiet Australians” & through some miraculous process, know & understand what they are thinking. Like Cr Innes, those same politicians claim, without a shred of evidence, that those “quiet Australians” must inevitably support & agree with their views; after all, if they didn’t, why wouldn’t they say so?

How convenient. No room for real world ignorance, complacency or relevance here.

But Cr Innes claim was not only nonsensical, it was also disingenuous to imply that those who hold a position or express a view contrary to council are simply “nay-sayers” & could not possibly be motivated by a genuine desire to stand-up for what they see as their rights & beliefs or the best interests of their community.

The BVSRRA believes that the Cr Innes’ opinions are presumptuous, iIlogical & doubtless offensive to a significant number of residents & ratepayers in the Eurobodalla Shire who she alleges, without evidence, must agree with her & council’s views.

Not content with that, Cr Innes then proceeded to detail what she characterised as a “deterioration in the behaviour of some of the presenters” at Public Forums, including cases of “defamatory remarks being made about staff & also councillors” & “people inadvertently exposing things that should be confidential information”.

The BVSRRA is aware of only one incident during a meeting of Eurobodalla Shire Council where defamatory remarks were allegedly made. And, from the public reports at the time, it seemed that the most contentious aspect of that incident was not the remarks that were made but rather that they had been expunged from the recording of the meeting without acknowledgement.

As for the supposed release of “confidential information”, that is surely a matter for those responsible for protecting such information: councillors & council officials & not residents & ratepayers.

As to Cr Innes’ suggestion that council decisions should be based on people’s behaviour, the BVSRRA believes that the voices of the eight residents & ratepayers who spoke against council’s anti-democratic decision in a passionate but always respectful manner were far more eloquent & convincing than her specious & imperious assertions to the contrary.

Throughout all of this, not a word said about suggestions that the real reason for council’s decision to gag the proceedings of its Public Forums may have had more to do with the inability of Cr Innes to use the tools at her disposal to effectively manage council meetings, rather than anything-else.

The BVSRRA believes that in supporting the removal of live streaming of council’s Public Forums, Cr Innes & those of her colleagues who supported that action, have acted to effectively stifle legitimate public debate & the democratic right of all residents & ratepayers to have their voices heard.

One of the residents & ratepayers who expressed opposition to the proposed changes to council’s Code of Meeting Practice, in particular the cessation of live streaming, was Mr Chris Kowal.

In the view of the BVSRRA, Mr Kowal offered a valuable insight into how council’s Public Forums should be viewed & conducted when he likened them to a “town square”: a place where all can come, come equally & be heard.

For those who might like to decide for themselves if Eurobodalla Shire Council’s decision to abandon live streaming of future Public Forums was a good thing or a bad thing, you can also listen to the submissions made by the eight residents & ratepayers who addressed council so eloquently during last Wednesday’s Public Forum. Presentations by : Donald Macdonald, Jeff de Jager, Peter Cormick, Jim Bright, Lei Parker

And those interested in the detail of the proposed Code of Meeting Practice can read the general manager's report contained in the Agenda for the meeting.

While the BVSRRA believes that the best interests of residents & ratepayers in the Eurobodalla Shire were not served by their council’s decision to abandon live-streaming of Public Forums, the shire remains most fortunate to have a community that includes a strong cohort of articulate & committed citizens determined to hold government to account.

The BVSRRA believes that the real losers in all of this are the elected councillors who, by virtue of their decision, have simply succeeded in further alienating themselves from members of their own community.

John Richardson


Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association

#Opinion #Bega #Council