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A sad day for Eurobodalla democracy

Tomorrow, Tuesday August 13th will be a sad day indeed for democracy in Eurobodalla as the public attend the Public Forum that precedes the Council meeting to voice their concerns over three controversial issues that will be voted on by Councillors at their Council meeting that immediately follows. Why is it a sad day for democracy? Up until recently you, the ratepayers and residents, were able to watch live the presentations of speakers and were able to hear the questions asked by Councillors and the responses given. If you missed the live streaming you would be able to watch the recording on Council's website. Following a recent decision by Council to cease the live streaming and recording of Public Forum you, the ratepayers and residents will see and hear nothing at all. (NOTE: This was voted against by Clr McGinlay and Mayne) Council, in making that determination said that if the community want to find out what was presented then they could read the submissions on the Council website archives. There would however be no transcript provided of any questions and responses. Tomorrow we will hear speakers present on the Climate Emergency issue, the sale of the Moruya Racecourse and the new requirements by the Minister for Planning around the Rural Land Strategy. Three very important issues that have raised the concerns and attention of the community. Anyone wishing to speak was required to register with Council by 12 noon today (August 12th, 2019) and to say if they were speaking for or against an issue, providing a copy of their written presentation for distribution to Councilors and staff. Given that each speaker is allocated seven minutes to present and might receive a question or two the One Hour given for Public Forum will most likely see five speakers heard. As to who speaks is contentious as the General Manager, under the new rules, has final say on who presents. Council demoted the role of Public Forum saying that it was only one mechanism to engage with Councillors and that it should not have any weight above written submissions, face to face contact or phone and email contacts with the General Manager saying Councillors have been availed all the communication tools to effect communication. The Mayor was also of the opinion that Public Forum could possibly be used for electioneering grandstanding and that the risk of it broadcasting live possible defamatory, blasphemous, seditious, slanderous remarks was a risk Council were not willing to take. "There is a disappointing trend by a small group of presenters who abused the opportunity to engage with councillors and instead used it to "harass, bully, make defamatory comments and continuously promote misinformation, and to also make defamatory and derogatory comments continuously about members of our staff" The only option now to hear what your fellow community members say to Councillors during Public Forum is to attend the Forum at 9:30am Tuesday 13th August and take a seat in the public gallery. Following Public Forum the councillors are meant to go to a session for a half hour to deliberate over what had been presented however having already read the presentations 24 hours before there will be little to sway the councillors who have already decided exactly which way they intend to vote, using, as some often do, the question time to ask questions that belittle or denigrate issues raised by the speaker. It is little wonder, with the outbursts, the opinionated rhetoric and the occasional savaging that presenters receive that there is a reluctance to present to Council. Knowing also that issues are pre-decided at briefings and that presentations "have no additional weight" also makes any decision to present futile unless it is a presentation of support for a recommendation. Hopefully the Public Forum session will be attended by the Councillors as it is not considered a formal meeting and therefore attendance is not mandatory. The Beagle will be there to record as best we can the Public Forum that you are no longer allowed to see and hear unless you make the effort to attend in person. We can confirm there will be speakers at 9:30am. Council does not advise if there are speakers registered to present at Public Forum or Public Access which makes it a bit hit and miss for those who want to follow Council matters. The last Public Access session had one speaker for just three minutes presenting on behalf of another which meant no questions could be asked by Councillors. Fortunately for the two members in the Public Gallery there was a speaker on the day otherwise their round-trip to Council chambers would have been a total waste of time.

Above: Councillors (except McGinlay and Mayne) are encouraged to stand in the corner and have a good think about what they have done to democratic process in Eurobodalla that has turned public engagement and consultation into a farce

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