report from the roundtable – 11 jun
An interesting and very quiet night at council last
night as the Mayor chose to exercise his right under the Yarra Ranges Meeting
Procedures and Use of Common Seal Local Law
2007 to not allow councillors to speak to motions if the motion was not
It was a surprising turn of events given the Meeting
Procedures were discussed at length at our private meeting a week earlier on
the 4th June where there were concerns expressed about the time
frames Councillors took to debate (going beyond 5 minutes) but absolutely no
discussion of not being able to speak to a motion should there be no opposition.
It has been custom and practice at Yarra Ranges Council, since the return of
councillors in 1997 post amalgamation, to allow councillors to speak to a
motion whether there’s unanimous agreement or not.
I sat aghast last night, although a very short agenda
with only two items, no opportunity to talk to how important they are in their
own way. From my perspective it was a poor outcome for local democracy. I
believe the public gallery has a right to know why councillors vote the way we
do (and the record should reflect that too – all council meetings are recorded).
As I left the meeting a member of the public said to
me “I like to know what the councillors think”, I couldn’t agree more, you have
a right to understand why we vote the way we do even if we are all in furious
To me it looked like we were ‘rubber stampers’, like we
had no ownership of the issue and I don’t believe the local law is operating in
the best interest of open and transparent government.
I was also concerned that if there was no opposition
to a motion, which was the case at last night’s meeting, there was no need for a
show of hands, so not even a requirement to physically participate in the
Clearly the local law is flawed and needs to change. I will be raising the
issue at the next meeting of council on the 25th June, the section
concerned (S48 Moving a Motion) clearly needs review, needs discussion by all
councillors to provide appropriate guidance to the meeting chair. (NOTE 13 June: Since writing this blog I have learnt that some councillors will be absent for the next couple of council meetings so I will be bringing this issue back to a later meeting in July). I was advised
later that the Mayor had changed his mind and would allow the mover and
seconder to speak at our next council meeting, however this is a matter of
importance to all councillors and we should all have the opportunity to
participate in how we would like our meetings to run and the best way to
achieve that is through a review.
The objectives of the Yarra Ranges Meeting Procedures
and Use of Common Seal local law are to:
It’s my view that the current provisions do not facilitate
good governance and discourage participation by councillors, the community
- provide a mechanism which facilitates the good
governance of the Council
- promote and encourage community participation
- regulate and control the election of the Mayor,
Deputy Mayor and any chairpersons for special committees
- control the use of the Council seal
- generally provide for the administration of
Council's powers and functions.
I hope that my colleagues support my motion for a
review, the local law is clearly outdated, has never operated as written (up
until last night) and needs an update to reflect the current practice at Yarra
Ranges. The way it stands at the moment it allows for the chair to exercise the
provision to its full extent and that’s not a good outcome.
And for the record, the two issues we voted on last
night were Constitutional Recognition
of Local Government and the Electronic Gaming Machine Gambling Policy
and EGM Process Guidelines. Two really key and important issues in their own
way, it’s very disappointing that there was no discussion around either.
Labels: cr samantha dunn, democracy, local law, meeting procedure, yarra ranges