The Beagle Editor, Trumpland: Climate Change and Public Forum Being unable to attend yesterday’s council meeting, I tuned into the webcasting of it, to see and hear how Councillor McGinlay’s Climate Emergency Notice of Motion was to be dealt with. With expected self-satisfied, impenetrable ignorance, the Flat-earthers prevailed. They prevailed by their numbers alone; most certainly not by argument. The overwhelming scientific evidence provided by the IPCC, NASA, CSIRO and other scientific bodies, was replaced by the personal opinions of councillors who prefer to rely on their own interpretations of their lifetime experiences of the weather, and on yarns from the old timers, about how dry it was way back when, and on predicted sea level rises that are simplistically and ignorantly arrived at by linear extrapolation, rather than on irrefutable science. A complex, multi-factorial, exponential growth analysis can find no room on the back of an envelope and is therefore incomprehensible and must be rejected. This is our very own Trumpland, where science has no place, where belligerent ignorance runs rampant and where scientists are seen as evil conspirators. Our education system has a lot to answer for. During the debate I heard references to the “views expressed by the community today”; and there at the top right hand of the webcasting screen, was the empty public forum presenters’ chair – no doubt still warm from those who had just occupied it but whose images and words were denied to the viewing public. What were those views? Who expressed them? Why were we, the viewing public, denied seeing them being delivered? Given the significance of the subject matter, I had expected that prior to the meeting there would be presentations made during the scheduled public forum period. However, but for the occasional reference to the “views expressed”, made by several councillors, no one outside the chamber would have actually known that these took place. Those who wanted to see, firsthand, fellow members of the community present to council, needed to take a punt and travel into Moruya, no matter how far or inconvenient, and hope that the trip would be worth the time and effort – that there were indeed presentations to be made. This arrangement, created by council, is blatantly absurd and clearly not in the community’s best interests. Just what presentations are scheduled to be made should be posted to council’s website the day before the meeting. But that would almost certainly encourage the attendance of community members, and that is very definitely not what the majority of councillors want. What today’s presenters had to say and what if anything councillors asked of them, was very deliberately withheld from the wider public, by council itself, following a decision by a majority of councillors. Council will tell you that one can simply go to its website and read what was written by the presenters, sometime (days?) after the meeting! No rational person would regard that arrangement as even approaching satisfactory. In fact it is insulting and contemptuous of the community. The views expressed by the presenters apparently included those from very well-credentialed and informed individuals and, I have just read in the Beagle, a brave, young primary school girl. Incredibly but not surprisingly, enthusiastic applause for her presentation by the overflowing public gallery, was, in a display of extreme churlishness, shut down by Mayor Innes! It doesn’t get much meaner than that. I understand that the mayor said that if she allowed applause she would be required to allow booing! This is extraordinary stuff. It would appear that she is unable to distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable responses from the gallery. I noticed, on a few occasions at least, that when Councillor Mayne delivered a very strong and eloquent case in support of Councillor McGinlay’s motion, the mute switch was flicked on, then off when the applause was finished!
VIDEO: Ordinary Meeting of Eurobodalla Council Date: August 13th 2019 Examples of audience applause being muted -- Published here under Fair Dealing for the purpose of news as it is considered that this evidence is of public interest
Make what you like of that but it seems clear to me that this tactic is yet a further expression of the political censorship that a majority of councillors have fallen into line with. The views expressed by the presenters – some of which have appeared in the Beagle - were clearly of critical relevance to the debate. In fact, as we know, the Office of Local Government has advised all councils in NSW that public forums are an integral part of council’s decision-making process. Yet, on 11 June this year, seven of our nine councillors – Innes, Pollock, Thomson, Brown, Tait, Nathan and Constable – decided to remove the webcasting of this critically relevant part of council’s decision-making process. Why would anyone purporting to represent the best interests of a community which put them in place, decide to remove the webcasting of views and information that the community has every entitlement to be witness to? In a nutshell, it was done to close down public dissent. The alternative, of actually addressing the dissent, is beyond them. Had we not had the facility of the webcasting of public forum in place, I would have been angry enough at being denied the opportunity to view it online but given that prior to 11 June of this year we did in fact have this facility in place and that it has now been removed by the councillors named, I am incensed at being denied the opportunity to watch and listen to the presentations, especially that of the very brave primary school student. What a disgrace that this is happening in our shire. This is a prime example of political censorship at the grass roots level. Our council stands alone, in disgrace, in not webcasting public forum. The very recent Beagle article “A Sad Day for [what remains of] Eurobodalla Democracy” provides an excellent overview of this egregious state of affairs. One response to it is from the erudite Jim Bright, who humorously advised that “Rumour has it that the North Korean regime is thinking of sending a delegation to the Eurobodalla to see if our council can give them any tips on how to tighten their control on public access to information!”. Many a true word is spoken in jest. It’s all a matter of attitude and scale. Information suppression is the key to suppressing dissent. The ‘logic’ touted by the gang of seven to justify the removal of webcasting of public forum is that council is required to webcast only meetings of council and so, given that public forum is not part of the meeting (even though, absurdly and irrationally, public forum rules are contained within the Code of Meeting Practice), council is not required to webcast it and therefore it does not do so! Wow! What about what council ought to do, as had been done previously, as part of its obligation to engage with and inform the community that it is there to serve? The gang of seven has no idea of just who they are answerable to or what their obligations under the Local Government Act are. But for the Beagle, which I again commend for disseminating information throughout the shire, the wider community wouldn’t have a clue about the presentations that were given yesterday – or, for that matter, those presentations to be given prior to all future meetings – at least until shortly after next year’s council election. Peter Cormick 14 August 2019