News

Eurobodalla Shire Council pulls the plug on live streaming

Ian Campbell 12 June 2019
Mayor Liz Innes and Cr Part McGinlay. Photos: Supplied. Design: Ian Campbell

Mayor Liz Innes and Cr Pat McGinlay. Photos: Supplied. Design: Ian Campbell.

The plug has been pulled on the live streaming of public addresses to Eurobodalla Shire Council amid cries of cover-ups, lack of transparency, and a winding back of democracy and free speech.

Defending the move, Mayor Liz Innes says she is hoping the change will allow for a deeper more balanced presentation of Council issues and meeting agenda items.

“My experience is that generally, the members of the public who come and address the public forum are the ones not entirely happy with what’s being put forward,” Cr Innes says.

“And it can be argued that if members of the wider community are only relying on the live stream that they are not getting the whole picture.”

The change in Code of Meeting Practice was approved seven votes to two at yesterday’s Council meeting; Cr Pat McGinlay and Cr Anthony Mayne the only two dissenting voices – apart from the eight community members who addressed Council.

As reported earlier, the change was flagged on March 26 and placed on extended public exhibition until May 15.

In proposing the new Code, General Manager Dr Catherine Dale sought to bring the Eurobodalla in line with advice from the Office of Local Government (OLG). In her report to Councilors, Dr Dale points to the OLG’s directive to promote “more accessible, orderly, effective and efficient meetings and to provide councils with the tools to achieve these outcomes.”

Cancelling the webcast/live stream of the public forum prior to a Council meeting was one way Eurobodalla set out to achieve that.

During the submission period, the draft Code drew submissions from 13 members of the public. According to Cr McGinlay 11 of those argued strongly for the retention of the webcast.

“The move to end live streaming is very disappointing and very dispiriting,” Cr McGinlay says.

“It’s pathetic, point seven of our Community Strategic Plan talks about being an engaged and connected community who works together to achieve goals and what we are doing is making it more difficult for the community to engage and feel connected to Council.”

Mayor Innes disagrees and points to a level of engagement prior to any given decision that includes public meetings, workshops, and a written submissions process; on top of direct communication between the community and councilors via emails, phone calls and meetings.

“The other thing that really weighed heavily on my mind is that over the last 18 months I have seen a deterioration of behaviour from some of the presenters that have come into Council,” Cr Innes says.

“I have seen cases where members of our staff have been defamed with no opportunity to respond at that time, I have seen other members of the community harassed, I have seen cases where inadvertently people have put out confidential information.”

Cr Innes suggests that the risk of legal action following such instances is too great for ratepayers to bear.

Increasing levels of frustration are evident in community addresses according to Cr McGinlay but he says it’s a matter that could be addressed by good meeting facilitation by the Mayor.

“You do get the odd person who does cross the line but this is a real live world we live in, people will do that, we’ve had councilors do that,” Cr McGinlay says.

“What she [the Mayor] is saying is – I can’t manage this as the chair of the meeting so we are going to stop the whole thing.

“I don’t think it’s right to throw out the opportunity for the broader community because of the few exceptions who can abuse or misuse the time.”

While councilors have a code of conduct and behaviour to abide by, the Mayor says the same formal structures and fallbacks can’t be put in place for members of the public when addressing council.

“This subject came up for discussion at the recent country mayors’ meeting I attended in Sydney,” Cr Innes says.

“I have a feeling that other councils will start to experience this exposure [and need to consider the future of their own live streams].”

Eurobodalla Shire Council Chambers at Moruya. Photo: integrateav.com.au

Eurobodalla Shire Council Chambers at Moruya. Photo: integrateav.com.au

While the webcast of the public forum has ended, council meetings, however, will continue to be live streamed. Anyone wanting to speak at Council on an agenda item will now need to provide a written statement 24 hours prior to the meeting. That statement/speech and council’s response will be part of the public record of the meeting.

“Eurobodalla was ahead of the pack on live streaming, we’ve been doing this for four years, now we are going backward,” Cr McGinlay says.

“Seeing the reaction and the passion of people and councilors is important, we are going to miss seeing that, just looking at bare text you can miss that entirely, body language and tone is a huge part of communication.”

A plan to scrap the ‘public access’ session which deals with non-agenda items was voted down.

The next meeting of Eurobodalla Shire Council is June 25.

Bega Valley Shire Council is also reviewing its Code of Meeting Practice, although Bega Valley is not suggesting any change to its live streaming. The comment period ended on April 30, councilors are considering the matter at today’s (June 12) meeting.

What's Your Opinion?

17 Responses to Eurobodalla Shire Council pulls the plug on live streaming

Order
Vicki Jones Vicki Jones 6:30 pm 12 Jun 19

Bring on the next Council election!

Laurie Thomas Slater Laurie Thomas Slater 6:51 pm 12 Jun 19

What the? Many residents are unable to attend in person so live streaming is a vital tool to including them. I would think that Local Councils would be glad of participation. Wait a minute....... That's right, we can't let people know what's actually happening. When can we expect the AFP?

Kaz Matron Kaz Matron 7:25 pm 12 Jun 19

So much for transparency and equality.

Wouldn’t that contravene the disability discrimination act? Not everyone can physically attend council meetings.

BTW people, there’s always GIPA (The Government Information (Public Access) Act ).

Anthony Harrison Anthony Harrison 7:31 pm 12 Jun 19

What's to prevent members of public from streaming proceedings themselves?

    Laurie Thomas Slater Laurie Thomas Slater 7:33 pm 12 Jun 19

    Anthony Harrison ,but should we have to go to those lengths?

    Anthony Harrison Anthony Harrison 7:39 pm 12 Jun 19

    Yes, technically it's not hard with a smart phone. And it would prove a point, that people have a right to know. But it would also bring on a legal battle when someone tries to stop it. And ending in court for denying the public's right to know what their representatives are doing and saying is not what they want, it would shine a spotlight into their dark corner!

    Pat McGinlay Pat McGinlay 11:34 am 14 Jun 19

    Hi Anthony, the very same Code of Meeting practice prohibits anyone recording the public forum or any other part of the meeting without permission. (Good luck getting that). If they cannot record then they cannot live stream or post it.

    Anthony Harrison Anthony Harrison 1:33 pm 14 Jun 19

    Unjust laws rarely get changed without a little bit of civil disobedience. Does the ban on recording meetings apply only to electronic methods ? Could it be invoked against a news reporter writing down what's said ?

    Pat McGinlay Pat McGinlay 2:06 pm 14 Jun 19

    Anthony Harrison Reporters still allowed in to take notes.

    Anthony Harrison Anthony Harrison 11:13 am 15 Jun 19

    funny that note-taking is allowed but the more accurate recording of what is said is not... and they are worried about being misrepresented...

Louellyn Violet Louellyn Violet 7:56 pm 12 Jun 19

Amanda Snow Lee-Anne Gwynne, probs not your council, but juicy anyway

    Amanda Snow Amanda Snow 8:20 pm 12 Jun 19

    Louellyn Violet , yeah not our area, interesting

Maureen Searson Maureen Searson 8:42 pm 12 Jun 19

This is a disappointing decision that is not in the public's interest. There were no logical arguments from councillors who voted to end live streaming. Councillors have completely ignored all those people who can't make it to meetings so watch live streaming or they watch the Public Forum from the archives. This will be no more!

Joshua Shoobridge Joshua Shoobridge 10:00 pm 12 Jun 19

I bet we will have the same issue here in bega soon!

Nina Poulton Nina Poulton 10:44 pm 12 Jun 19

A sad day for our shire

Owen Thoreoz Holland Owen Thoreoz Holland 12:08 am 14 Jun 19

How many wasted thousands of town rates went into small watercraft bridges in the last years been built, rebuilt and built again 🤔🤔🤔

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