Cr Rob Mills also voted against live streaming, but he was an upfront and consistent opponent to this from the beginning, whereas the Liberals claimed they agreed with the idea in principal at an earlier meeting. Whether or not live streaming went ahead therefore depended on the Liberal vote.
One of the reasons they included in the argument against live streaming or transcribing of meetings was that it would reduce transparency (I kid you not).
It was even suggested that somehow, while speaking in the Council chambers without parliamentary privilege our councillors would be able to have an open and robust debate without fear of defamation. However, simply by streaming or transcribing meetings the defamation act that had been in abeyance would suddenly switch on. This is just not true. The only difference I could see would be potential damages depending on how widely the defamatory meaning might have spread but I don't recall this being brought up by anyone.
In addition, some of the points made in the report by Council officers, which were used as the basis of the debate seem to be questionable.
- As I noted in my public address on the night, the definition of defamation was sourced from this 2000 document, while the new act came into force five years later in 2005. By using this strict definition it completely ignored the primary defence of truth and the other nine defences that are part of the 2005 Defamation Act (see Part 4, division 2 of the Act). Under section 32 of that Act, Camden Council (though not the councillors) is protected from a defamation action if a meeting is being streamed live. The defences were not part of the final report that was presented publicly, giving creedence to Cr Paul Farrow's contention that this was a particularly negative report.
- Port Stephens was used as an example of a council that had turned its back on live-streaming. I phoned that Council on the day of the meeting and was told they intend to bring back live streaming before Christmas.
- The cost of live-streaming estimated by Council officers also seemed excessive, especially for a new state-of-the-art building with modern infrastructure in an area with broadband. According to Council officers it would cost $85,000 to set up live streaming (plus around $30,000 of training for councillors and council staff) and then $20,000 a year thereafter. Maybe they should put out a tender like Wollondily Council, which achieved live-streaming earlier this year at a setup cost of $7000 and an ongoing cost of around $1000 a year.
Beyond live streaming, we had a host of other interesting matters in the meeting. A petition for a new skatepark in Narellan or Mount Annan, the usual battle of ideas around 350sqm subdivisions in the South West Growth Area, some new industrial zoning on the borders of Smeaton Grange to make life easier for businesses and residents, and a bit of a battle over the potential loss of views caused by a development application in Kirkham.
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