General business needs to be brought back to council meetings to give councillors a voice.
General business needs to be brought back to council meetings to give councillors a voice.

#letthemspeak: Gympie council's rules not good enough

HINDSIGHT is always 20:20 and when I look back on the decision by the newly elected Gympie Regional Council to kill general business in 2016, I can't believe we all took it so calmly.

Perhaps it was our trust and optimism that this was not an attack on democracy at the grassroots; that the council would still be transparent and let its councillors have a voice. Democracy is after all government of the people, for the people and by the people.

The words "transparent and accountable" were bandied about ad nauseam before the election but things became more opaque after that.

We are calling on the council to return general business to its meetings.
We are calling on the council to return general business to its meetings.

Such is people's thirst for knowledge, truth and honesty, though, that we dig and we push. We pay the fees for Right to Information requests and wait months to get results.

As a community, we should have rejected and protested the death of general business.

No matter what anybody says, there is a clear and obvious voting bloc in Gympie Regional Council; a clear and obvious division and a fear of speaking publicly.

In 30 years reporting on local councils, general business was always the best part of the meeting - a goldmine of robust discussion, exchanges of ideas and stories.

A RTI on council staff surveys is now in its sixth month of being processed; the Information Commissioner’s preliminary finding is The Gympie Times is entitled to much of the information. And yet we still wait.
A RTI on council staff surveys is now in its sixth month of being processed; the Information Commissioner’s preliminary finding is The Gympie Times is entitled to much of the information. And yet we still wait.

But debate in front of a newspaper reporter and a public gallery can be embarrassing and uncomfortable; things can be said that cannot be unsaid - things you wish had never been revealed.

Much better to control what can be said, and indeed what topics can even be discussed. Under the new standing orders we were all assured this new way of doing things was "in the public interest".

So since then, any councillor who wants to raise a matter in general business must submit it in writing seven days beforehand to the CEO and then have it approved by CEO Bernard Smith.

Councillors Hilary Smerdon, Dan Stewart, Glen Hartwig, Bob Leitch, Mick Curran, Bob Fredman, Mal Gear, Daryl Dodt and Mark McDonald have been forced to submit any motion to the CEO to be vetted at least seven days out from a council meeting.
Councillors Hilary Smerdon, Dan Stewart, Glen Hartwig, Bob Leitch, Mick Curran, Bob Fredman, Mal Gear, Daryl Dodt and Mark McDonald have been forced to submit any motion to the CEO to be vetted at least seven days out from a council meeting.

Well, we don't think that's good enough. We want general business reinstated into our council meetings.

In these times of creeping, sinister governmental and bureaucratic control of information, we want to give our local councillors back their voice.

We will be asking each candidate in the lead-up to the March 28 election what they think about the death of general business, and whether they would vote for its resurrection.

WE believe it must be brought back.

#letthemspeak