Councillor debates should not be gagged

AS a new Warrnambool City councillor, following my election I was provided with numerous documents on good governance within the council and the code of conduct expected of all councillors at council meetings as well as under the council’s local law on council meeting procedures.

I also expected that, as we all live in a democratic country, as a councillor I would have the right to freedom of speech at council meetings and to be able to represent the interests of the community as well as to express my views on all matters before the council.

At Monday’s council meeting I was deprived of the right to speak on a particular motion because of an obviously pre-contrived arrangement between certain councillors. This procedural motion was used to effectively “gag” any debate on a report that had been placed on the open council agenda and having reference to the chief executive Bruce Anson.

In my opinion, all councillors should be shown the same courtesy and respect on all issues that come before the council. 

It is not in the best interests of this city for a group of councillors to conspire together to prevent the democratic right of other elected councillors to be able to speak openly on any matter that may be of concern to our local community.

The divisive action that occurred at the last council meeting was clearly witnessed by the large number of persons who were present in the public gallery. 

Cr Peter Sycopoulis in particular was clearly denied his right as a councillor to speak on a matter of public interest, because of the instant action of Cr Rob Askew to have an immediate vote taken on this motion, without any opportunities being provided for other councillors to participate in discussion. 

Our mayor has unfortunately erred in his chairing of the meeting by appearing to be associated with a pre-planned strategy that deliberately set out to effectively prevent any discussion on what has become a sensitive issue in our community.

It is for this reason that I am proposing to submit a notice of motion to the next council meeting to have the resolution “to note the report from the Local Government Inspectorate” rescinded. 

Hopefully, by submitting this notice of motion, all councillors will then be given a rightful opportunity to express their views, especially if the democratic principles of council meetings are to be maintained and respected in this city.

Cr Brian Kelson, Liebig Street, Warrnambool