Recording of council meetings goes back to the vote 

THE vexed issue of recording Warrnambool City’s council meetings will flare for a third time when the issue returns to a vote next week.

Although The Standard understands a majority of councillors are willing to compromise with an audio recording of meetings, internet streaming advocate Cr Peter Hulin says the concept is a “cop out.”

Cr Hulin has made a notice of motion for Monday night’s meeting which calls for the taping and live-streaming over the internet of open public meetings.

He has included a further suggestion to record confidential council meetings which would be kept secure for at least a decade, similar to federal tradition of the 30-year rule for Cabinet meetings.

Cr Hulin said live-streaming ensured ratepayers were both able to see and hear debate whereas audio recordings diluted the atmosphere of the event.

He said many Warrnambool residents wanted live-streaming because council meetings were held at an awkward time for workers and people with young families.

“I think people need to see and hear what council is up to,” Cr Hulin said. “If it’s just audio, the full context of the meeting isn’t delivered. I’ve got nothing to hide from the ratepayers of Warrnambool and I think they deserve to be able to see what happens in their council instead of being left in the dark.”

Moyne Shire adopted an audio-only recording of council meetings two years ago with ratepayers able to purchase copies from the municipal office for a small fee.

Warrnambool mayor Michael Neoh said there hadn’t been much change in the debate over transparency since the concept was last put to a vote last July.

The live-streaming option was killed off on that occasion after Cr Brian Kelson altered the motion on the understanding he would win Cr Kylie Gaston’s vote to get the issue over the line.

He changed the wording from ‘live-streaming’ to ‘audio recording’ of general meetings to be available on the council website.

Cr Neoh said council meetings were open to the public and thoroughly covered by the press.

“I’ve made my position clear at previous votes and I haven’t heard anything that has changed the debate since that time,” the mayor said. “I’ll keep an open mind until the night and I’m happy to take in all sides of the debate.”

The City of Melbourne agreed to make audio recordings 10 months ago and post the clips on its website. More than a dozen municipalities statewide have followed suit since the state capital’s council approved recordings.

alex.sinnott@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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