It is a complete contrast to Camden Council, which has consistently refused to allow residents to record council meetings or even listen to the council’s recordings of these meetings. It’s the reason why anyone who comes to a council meeting will see me typing madly as I take notes and make every effort to report things accurately without the benefit of audio or transcript.
There is no regulation in the NSW Local Government Act (1993) that says councils cannot allow their “public” meetings to be streamed, broadcast or recorded.
There are no concerns under the Privacy and Personal Information Act (1998) either as the PrivacyNSW Manual (pdf) explicitly states.
The decision to not allow streaming or recording is entirely in the hands of the council and is enshrined in the regulations the councillors themselves passed early this year as part of the Code of Meeting Practice (pdf).
I would be delighted to learn if anyone has ever been granted permission (please let me know in the comments below). I strongly suspect that it is an exception in name only.
In short, it is the council and the councillors who have made the decision to prevent local residents from being able to listen to debates and hear how our public representatives conduct themselves. It's a shame because it might have the additional benefit of making our councillors behave in a more dignified manner if they think voters are listening in.
Currently, all we get to see are the final votes without any explanations. Those debates are often very important and insightful in themselves.
In my opinion, it is time that Section 6.2 and 6.3 are revisited with a Notice of Motion at a future council meeting.
At the very least, the notice of motion should suggest council meetings can be live streamed for all the residents who can’t make the meetings at 6pm on Tuesday.
The cost, according to Wollondilly Council, with far worst line speed and an older council building than Camden is just $7000.
If we believe in open, democratic governance and expect a truly transparent council then access to the thinking behind decisions made by our councillors should be a given.
We are in the midst of some of the most monumental changes for the Camden region and at the moment only a very few people can afford the time to be engaged in the decisions being made in the name of ratepayers. Many of us commute, some of us are disabled and at 6pm on a Tuesday family priorities often get in the way of attendance at council meetings.
Even if we were all engaged, there isn't enough room for every resident.
It is eminently sensible in a democratic society that we use the technology available to us to improve access for all to democracy at a local level.
It will be very interesting should such a notice of motion be put forward to see which councillors would support the internet broadcast of council meetings and which would fight tooth and nail to keep things as they are.
At State and Federal level we have full transcripts of every spoken word via Hansard. We don't have that at local level, so perhaps It's time to #StreamDemocracy.