The Glen Eira Residents’ Association (GERA) has expressed resentment over a recent motion passed by the council of Glen Eira, which limits public participation during council meetings.
The newly introduced limitations in the local law require any member of the public to be physically present in the council meetings in order to raise a question.
The law doesn’t allow any more than two questions per person, which must be submitted no later than 12 noon the day before the council meets.
The president of GERA, Bette Hatfield, was clear in her disapproval of the new resolution.
“GERA disagrees with the new rules in public questions since we believe that these new rules do nothing but deter the residents and ratepayers from using a valid formal process for asking questions of their elected representatives,” said Mrs Hatfield.
She believes the motion reduces the power of people and allows the acts of council to go unchecked.
“Since the Council has no sitting opposition and receives scant media coverage, the residents have few options other than public questions to get both their question and Council’s response publicly acknowledged and recorded in Council Minutes,” she said.
The association feels public questioning during the council meetings already serves as the “last resort” of approaching the council, only after letters and discussions with the councillors have failed to produce a satisfactory result.
Although the council was successful in passing the resolution, it did receive criticism from a minority of councillors.
Councillor Mary Delahunty of the Camden Ward, who stood against the resolution, called it “sending us back to the dark ages.”
“I do not think that there should be limitations on people exercising their democracy as limiting public participation is a retrograde step,” said Councillor Delahunty.
“Neither do i think that it should be different between different municipalities. I would like the state government to make a blanket rule for public participation in the meetings.”
Residents’ association president Bette Hatfield shared the same ground with Councillor Delahunty and called the limit on public questions an “additional impediment” to obtaining information.
“It does not challenge freedom of expression because we are still allowed to make an argument, it has just been made harder for us to do so,” said Mrs Hatfield.
The majority of councillors who voted in favour of the motion included Councillor Michael Lipshutz, who in an interview with the Leader newspaper said that public time had been used to “embarrass” the council.
He was backed by Councillor Jamie Hyams, who said that public question time could be seen as “a public version of trolling.”
In response to these assertions, Councillor Delahunty said, “the council does a pretty good job of embarrassing itself sometimes. Just because the public calls us to account on that does not mean that they are at fault.”
“It means that we are at fault. The ones who make such statements should share their experience first.”
Mrs Hatfield said the claims by Councillor Lipshutz and Councillor Hyams were “absurd.”
According to her the majority of public questions are related to valid concerns raised by residents or are requests for additional information that council has otherwise not provided.
“Such a justification impinges on the rights of all residents,” said the unhappy president of GERA.
Suggesting certain steps that could be taken by the public to repeal the currently active law, Councillor Delahunty suggested that before upcoming council elections a good amount of public pressure on the council could help bring control back into the hands of residents.
“We have elections on 22nd October. I hope the new council ministers will consider this issue as their utmost priority and turn things around by the first half of the coming year,” she said.
“It will be their responsibility to make people understand the role of a local law. Once the law goes out for consultation, then the public must participate in that consultation,”
Mrs Hatfield added that “lobbying” the council and the representatives will help her residents’ association maintain significant pressure.
“If you want to get any decision made by the council, then you need support to contact the government and present your argument,” she said.
Students using apps to make a difference
By Hayley McKenna Monash University’s first-year Nursing and Midwifery students used the ‘Mapswipe’ iphone app … Continue reading Students using apps to make a difference
Most students avoid protesting against fee increases
By Laura Placella About 80 per cent of university students are not protesting the cuts … Continue reading Most students avoid protesting against fee increases
From grassroots to primetime: the development of women’s sport
For decades, participants in women’s sport have heard the word ‘no’. From being restricted at junior … Continue reading From grassroots to primetime: the development of women’s sport
Looking beyond disability
In this podcast Celeste Marinelli looks at the story of a Monash University academic denied … Continue reading Looking beyond disability
Sunshine, Dirt, and a Little Bit of Peanut Butter
Isabelle Amy Melbourne children are the most allergic in the world but further study is … Continue reading Sunshine, Dirt, and a Little Bit of Peanut Butter
Workshops can fill gap in Indigenous language teaching, experts say
Amber Schultz Public interest in indigenous language and culture workshops highlight a deficit in Australia’s … Continue reading Workshops can fill gap in Indigenous language teaching, experts say
Guide Dogs Victoria seeking Melbourne and Geelong volunteers
Chinmay Naik More guide dogs and guide dog trainers will be needed as vision problems … Continue reading Guide Dogs Victoria seeking Melbourne and Geelong volunteers
Monuments to holocaust victims a turning point: 9/11 memorial judge
Andrew Mangelsdorf Monuments remembering holocaust victims marked a turning point in the design of commemorative spaces around … Continue reading Monuments to holocaust victims a turning point: 9/11 memorial judge
Pokemon no? Police warn of augmented reality game’s traffic hazards
Shiamak Unwalla Victoria traffic police have warned aspiring ‘Pokémon trainers’ of the hazards of playing … Continue reading Pokemon no? Police warn of augmented reality game’s traffic hazards
Public reform on defibrillators still needed: nurse and campaigner
Cate Altamura As I sit across the table from Anne Holland at the Rickett’s Point … Continue reading Public reform on defibrillators still needed: nurse and campaigner
Check ingredients of imported drinks, dairy regulator warns
Nan Xiao Victorians should check the ingredients of imported drink products they buy in case … Continue reading Check ingredients of imported drinks, dairy regulator warns
Call for safe spaces for LGBTQ international students
Coming to Australia was an eye-opener. “I feel like I can become who I am here.”