Now, with a new council and no single majority, decisions that shut the public out of council decision-making can now be reversed.
As we look to the next term of Camden Council, these are key democracy and transparency issues we feel it needs to address.
- The Liberal dominated council pushed through a decision that means the General Manager’s performance review can only be carried out in a closed meeting. This makes it illegal for anything discussed in that meeting to be made public and any reasons for decisions made by the council about the GM’s employment cannot be made public either. The GM is a public servant with great influence in our region. Our rates pay the GM’s salary. We would like to see the GM’s performance review carried out, as it always had been before Greg Wright was sacked, in public.
- Amend the Council Code of Meeting Practice pushed through by the Liberal voting bloc in 2016. Here are some of the amendments we would like to see.
- Currently, the public cannot address council meetings about any issues that are not in that night’s business agenda. Sometimes the council needs to be alerted to things that are not on the agenda and it is only fair that our community should be allowed the opportunity to bring these issues before a council meeting.
- Councillors only have one minute to put questions to other councillors and council officers regarding business items. For large items like major developments, one minute may not be sufficient time to tease out important details. We would like to see this time restriction removed.
- The last council made it a requirement that for a petition to be accepted, all signatories must include their name, address, phone number and signature. Privacy concerns may understandably make some people refuse to sign a petition with this level of detail even if it is important. Surely this requirement can be reduced to name, suburb and signature – as is accepted at most other councils.
- It’s time to rebuild the relationship between the council and Camden Chamber of Commerce that has been so thoroughly broken while the Liberals have been in control.
- It’s also time to rebuild the relationships with our local media outlets. Don’t pull advertising from one or the other of our local papers if it publishes stories critical of your actions. The community has the right to read frank and opposing voices around the actions of the council. Let the community make up its mind who to believe, not the council’s advertising dollar.
- Allow community members to speak from the floor without being cut-off or refused extensions if they have more to say. This is, after all, supposed to be a democracy.
- Ensure that any councilor can attend the Local Government Association Conference - not just those voted by a majority of the council. We do not want to see a single party send members and vote as a unit at this conference.
- Ensure that the most qualified councilors are elected to the important bodies of the Joint Regional Planning Panel or MACROC. The selection only of councilors from a particular party or their allies may look good on their CVs but it may not have the best outcome for our region.
Hopefully with a new council, we may see transparency return to local decision making and a fairer distribution of important duties and positions.