My name is Jim Bright. I’m a resident of Narooma.
I’m here today to make a few of comments regarding the Staff Report that is on today’s agenda recommending a new schedule of meeting dates for the remainder of this year.
Before getting down to the details of some of the things that are wrong with this report, I will preface my presentation with the following comment.
It is fundamental to our Australian system of representative democracy that the advice that public servants give to our elected representatives is (to quote the NSW Ombudsman) “accurate, impartial, complete and timely”.
Now to the details.
When this council approved the modified 2020 schedule of meetings at the ESC meeting on 24 March this year, it did so in the context of (a) the Covid-19 risks associated with face-to-face meetings in council chambers and (b) the legal obligations that still existed at that point in time for valid meetings to take place only in a physical face-to-face manner.
It is also relevant to note that that mayoral report contained the following statement.
“The proposed new schedule may be reconsidered if electronic voting at Council Meetings is allowed.”
For reasons that are not immediately apparent, today’s Staff Report fails to make it clear that one of the two OLG Circulars that were issued the next day (ie on 25 March) specifically advised the council of the urgent action that had been taken by the NSW Parliament to immediately allow meetings to occur over the internet. The important fact that this council has been able, since as long ago as 25 March, to therefore resume its normal schedule has not been acknowledged or admitted anywhere in this report.
The new schedule that has been recommended by the GM does not propose the restoration of the next (9 June) meeting, yet there is no explanation for this anywhere in her report.
Given that the original reason stated for the cancellation of that (and other) meetings no longer exists, a properly prepared report would have provided councillors and the community with an explanation for this recommendation.
The original schedule of 2020 meetings approved by you last year included a meeting for 13 October 2020.
The recommended schedule before you today no longer provides for that meeting. The only reason contained in the report is the words “No Meeting – break”.
The ‘Considerations’ section of the report does mention “October school holidays” as one of the factors that were taken into consideration by the GM in developing her recommended new schedule, but the fact is that 13 October does not fall within the school holidays that will occur in September/October this year.
And even if that wasn’t the case, why wouldn’t “October school holidays” have already been a known factor when deciding the original 2020 meeting schedule last year?
This report fails to explain to councillors and the community why there are no meetings recommended for 9 June and 13 October and it fails to explain why action wasn’t taken at least 2 months ago to restore normal meeting frequencies.