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Cr Hill’s win for free speech

THE public may once again be able to ask questions at open meetings of South Gippsland Shire Council, with or without notice.
Cr Don Hill last Wednesday successfully moved a notice of motion calling for the change.
Relevant council policies will now be amended and considered again for adoption by council at its November 28 meeting.
People can now only ask questions of council in writing and in advance of meetings, after council ended public questions without notice after presenters treated councillors disrespectfully.
Council, however, would not support Cr Hill’s bid for councillors to be able to ask questions on behalf of ratepayers in public question time at meetings.
That was despite him stating the questions were to be given to the mayor no later than noon on the day of the council meeting.
Korumburra residents Charles Price, Marie Gerrard-Staton and Cheryl Denman watched in the gallery at last Wednesday’s council meeting, wearing gags across their mouths symbolising they felt council had gagged them from speaking.
Cr Hill said, “People do have the right to have their questions asked in council.”
He said councillors should be able to ask questions on behalf of ratepayers, as the current policy states ratepayers must contact the CEO. He said the CEO does not represent ratepayers whereas councillors do.
Cr Jeremy Rich said, “Question time gives power to the voter”. He said people have the right to ask a question of council, even if those people do not like the answer.
Cr Andrew McEwen said enabling people to ask questions with or without notice would increase the community’s respect for council.
Cr Ray Argento said people had ample ways of asking questions of council and Cr Alyson Skinner said people asking questions must show respect to councillors.
Mayor Cr Lorraine Brunt said, “The reason public question time ended up the way it did was because of the disrespect shown by the presenters”, adding they treated councillors like “sitting ducks” when able to speak in the past.
She urged presenters not to take public question time as “an opportunity to throw stones”.
When the vote to reject councillors asking questions on behalf of ratepayers was passed, Mr Price yelled “Shame on you” and “You don’t answer your emails”.

Open up: from left, Korumburra residents Charles Price, Marie Gerrard-Staton and Cheryl Denman wear gags at last Wednesday’s South Gippsland Shire Council meeting, in protest at not being able to speak at public council meetings.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=26322

Posted by on Oct 30 2018. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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