First meeting of the new elected council – Bob Fredman, Dolly Jensen, Shane Waldock, Jess Milne, Bruce Devereaux, Mayor Glen Hartwig, Warren Polley, Deputy Mayor Hilary Smerdon and Dan Stewart
First meeting of the new elected council – Bob Fredman, Dolly Jensen, Shane Waldock, Jess Milne, Bruce Devereaux, Mayor Glen Hartwig, Warren Polley, Deputy Mayor Hilary Smerdon and Dan Stewart

Another closed council meeting is cause for concern

THE secret of any good magic trick is misdirection; focus on something so closely you miss what’s really happening.

Why keep this in mind?

Today marks the second time a workshop under the new council has nothing scheduled to be discussed in the public eye.

The entire workshop will be held behind closed doors.

Today’s meeting is the second time the new council has not had any items to be discussed in the publicly open portion of the workshop.
Today’s meeting is the second time the new council has not had any items to be discussed in the publicly open portion of the workshop.

It would be remiss of The Gympie Times to ignore the fact that this is already two more meetings completely behind closed doors than the previous council ever held.

A second meeting with no public items is not yet a crisis, but neither is it a recipe guaranteed to leave a good taste in one’s mouth.

But if you’re angry the last mob wasn’t transparent, but think entirely closed meetings with this lot are fine, you may need to check if you voted for accountability or just for your friends.

Of course the equation is not so simple.

For starters, this council has a new CEO to deal with and a monetary mess created by a culture of financial carelessness to clean up.

Gympie Regional Council may have never had two meetings with no content open to the public, but its transparency record was less than impressive.
Gympie Regional Council may have never had two meetings with no content open to the public, but its transparency record was less than impressive.

Speaking of that last council, it may not have had meetings entirely closed to the public but it did rip the guts out of general business without blinking an eye first chance it had.

It took four years, an election and a new council for general business to return; and even then, the new version is a misshapen, Frankenstein’s monster-like thing owing to new laws.

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And it is true live streaming did start with the last council.

All it took was the worst global disaster since 1918 to make it happen; so clearly not a priority.

This council also fired up its disclosure log (which puts all its documents released under the Right to Information Act in one handy place) once more.

Gympie council’s disclosure log is back for the first time since 2012, despite the Information Commissioner strongly recommending over the past few years that councils have one.
Gympie council’s disclosure log is back for the first time since 2012, despite the Information Commissioner strongly recommending over the past few years that councils have one.

Disclosure logs disappeared in 2012, after the State Government decided councils didn’t need them, and Gympie’s vanished faster than the Invisible Man at a convention for the blind.

Talk about doing the very least you can under the law.

And even with the Information Commissioner strongly recommending councils have disclosure logs, Gympie’s didn’t return until this year.

The council has taken steps to make itself more open, but it needs to make sure they aren’t backsliding in other areas.
The council has taken steps to make itself more open, but it needs to make sure they aren’t backsliding in other areas.

In fact, the council’s lack of a log – and whether it would be returning in the name of transparency – was something I raised back in 2017.

I understand in the end it took about three emails and no meetings to get it up and running, so I’m unsure what the remainder of those three years was spent doing.

The council clearly has taken steps to open itself up.

But it needs to make sure both hands are visible at all times, so the public can see for itself the movements of one don’t exist to conceal something in the other.

Gympie Times


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