Right to Speak Under Threat – Write to Council before 13 May

Hello All

**Action Required before 13 May**
This is a real threat to our democratic right to speak out!
Georges River Council is trying to push through a new code, which will restrict the public from voicing community concerns to Councillors. The Code is currently a DRAFT. We need to oppose it now.

If this Code had been in place last year, then our Save Carss Park Pool campaigners would have been very restricted in our ability to communicate our concerns to councillors at their meetings. Ilknur would have been banned altogether from speaking at the standing committee meeting on 12th November last year, and we wouldn’t have been allowed to present our 10,000 petition signatures or Paula’s maps and pictures at this year’s March 25th council meeting. We would have been restricted to registering only two speakers, not three, at that March 25th meeting. And possibly none of the councillors would have attended the public forum, if it wasn’t compulsory, to listen to Louiza’s speech on 26th November. If adopted now, the Code will limit our ability to stand up for the pool in the future, for example, in response to the findings of the pool’s upcoming Suitability and Feasibility Study.



Read our Save Carss Park Pool post about this issue here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/savecarssparkpool/posts/405079620076696

A number of the GRC’s draft code points are even contrary to the NSW government’s guidelines. https://kogarahbayprogress.org.au/submissions

We urge you all to to write a submission to Council before 13 May to stop the changes outlined below.

I originally heard about this draft code at the March 11th Standing Committee Meeting. I passed on my concerns to the Kogarah Bay Progress Association meeting that week, and they have since investigated the code and written a thorough submission. Thanks very much to Elise Borg, one of our many allies at Beverley Park Trees and Objection and Kogarah Bay Progress Association, for composing and posting this information on Facebook a couple of days ago.

Please find a sample submission letter by Elise below.

Read the full submission from Kogarah Bay Progress Association here;
The draft Code of Meeting Practice can be read and downloaded from here;

It is also attached here; 2019.05.06 0657 Code_of_meeting_practice

The new code seeks to implement:-

1. Removing Public Forum’s from Standing Committee Meetings and Extraordinary Council Meetings (currently the public can have 3 x people make a 3min address to Councillors at these meetings. Under the new code, no one can speak)

2. Limiting the number of speakers to 2 speakers ‘for’ or ‘against’ a motion at a Council meeting (currently the public can have 3 speakers ‘for’ or ‘against’)

3. Removing the Public Forum from the Order of Business at the Ordinary Council Meeting (currently the public can speak during the actual council meeting, with Councillors debating an issue immediately after. Council want to include a time gap so Council staff can ‘inform’ councillors).

4. Councillors not being obliged to attend Public Forums (if this is not mandatory, then who is to say Councillors will attend to hear the public speak? Currently as the public forum is part of the actual Council meeting, it is mandatory for Councillors to attend).

5. Restricting the public to only speak on 1 item of business (this is a new rule, not currently in place)

6. No visual or audio material to be used in public forum (this is a new rule, not currently in place. Would restrict the public from presenting photographs or petitions to Council).
We urge you to write a formal submission to Council before 13 May.

Sample Submission below.

This draft code will be reported to Councillors at the end of May, so please also write to all 15 Councillors voicing your concerns as well.

Sample Submission

(by Elise Borg, thank you Elise):-

Email to: mail@georgesriver.nsw.gov.au
Email subject: Draft Code of Meeting Practice 2019

Sample email:

Attn: General Manager
I wish to object to some of the proposed changes outlined in Georges River Councils Draft Code of Meeting Practice 2019 as outlined below:-
1 – Public Forums should be held prior to extraordinary council meetings and meetings of committees of the council. To deny the public the democratic right to speak at a Committee Meeting prior to a recommendation being made to Council is not in the spirit of open government or transparency. It is at these Committee Meetings where the majority of decisions of Council are made. (Clause 3.2)
2 – The number of speakers ‘for’ or ‘against’ a motion should remain as 3 and not be reduced to 2. Reducing the number of speakers restricts the public from having a fair opportunity to express an opinion or present an argument to Council. (Clause 3.9)
3 – The Public Forum should remain as part of the Order of Business of the Ordinary Council Meeting not after a lengthy time gap where Councillors recess to have discussion behind closed doors where bureaucrats can influence the debate, as put forward in Council’s Draft Code of Meeting Practice. The public should be able to witness the debate and the decision-making process.
4 – Councillors should be obliged to attend public forums, otherwise how can they gauge community feelings or expectations if they are not in attendance. Clause 3.3 makes a farce of the democratic process for the voice of the public being heard. (Clause 3.3)
5 – The public should be able to speak on more than 1 item if there are multiple issues of concern. (Clause 3.6)
6 – The public should be able to register and present any visual or audio aids to support their address to council. To deny the public this right is undemocratic. (Clause 3.12)
And I urge Council to change the code to reflect community concern and encourage community input into decision-making.

Please also send a copy of your email to the 15 Councillors who will vote whether to adopt the code at the May 27th Council Meeting.

Email addresses below:-

<kgreene@georgesriver.nsw.gov.au>, <selmir@georgesriver.nsw.gov.au>, <sgrekas@georgesriver.nsw.gov.au>, <klandsberry@georgesriver.nsw.gov.au>, <vbadalati@georgesriver.nsw.gov.au>, <nliu@georgesriver.nsw.gov.au>,
<cwu@georgesriver.nsw.gov.au>, <sagius@georgesriver.nsw.gov.au>, <nkatris@georgesriver.nsw.gov.au>, <chindi@georgesriver.nsw.gov.au>, <Lkonjarski@georgesriver.nsw.gov.au>, <wtegg@georgesriver.nsw.gov.au>, <rkastanias@georgesriver.nsw.gov.au>, <csymington@georgesriver.nsw.gov.au>,

You can copy and paste this list into your email “To” field.

Kind Regards
Kathryn Skelsey

UPDATE (12-05-2019):

Additional points;
– it is an insult to be perceived as a nuisance. This perception of the public by the council is implied by implementing new restrictions on our ability to speak and be heard.

– the amalgamation of the councils to cover a larger overall area, and our increasing population, would indicate that increased opportunities to speak and be heard should be being applied, not less.

An article was published on page 2 of the Leader on Wednesday 9th May, with further comments;2019.05.12 0834 Leader DCOMP KBPA

You can read letters that have been written to the Leader about this issue here;

You can also write your own Letter to the Editor here; leaderletters@fairfaxmedia.com.au

It may help to encourage people to attend the council meeting on May 27th to voice our concerns directly to the councillors.

It would also be good if you could consider being at that meeting to demonstrate our objection to this silencing.

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