As the campaign progresses, I'm getting asked lots of interesting questions. I'm going to put the questions and answers as they arise right here so that everyone can see what I stand for in relation to the issues that matter to them.
18 August 2017
"What is your position on the review of theTown of Bassendean's Leadership and Governance Policies?"
Our Town Council is reviewing its 23 Leadership and Governance policies at the moment. I have made a submission to the public review process in line with my stated policy positions on six of these policies recommending that the policies be change in order to:
End gifts for departing Councillors;
Provide live streaming and a video archive of public Council meetings to improve transparency and public access to Council decision making;
Remove unnecessary restrictions on Councillors’ Notices of Motion;
Remove unnecessary and possibly unlawful restrictions from Individual Councillor’s publications and communications to our community;
Ensure our Town’s investments are prudent and ethical; and
Make records of prescribed Councillor contact with Developers available to our community in a more timely and transparent way.
End gifts for departing Councillors
Policy 6.6: Public service is its own reward and Councillors are already compensated for the work they do on behalf of our Town. Councillors do not require an additional gift beyond this compensation. I recommend the removal of the Gifts for Departing Councillors policy.
Live stream and provide a video archive of public Council meetings to improve transparency and public access to Council decision making
Policy 6.7: The proposed policy for the electronic recording of Council meetings is inadequate. We need to improve the transparency of our Town’s decision making processes by making them as widely and readily available to our community as is available to those community members who can attend our Town’s proceedings in person.
I recommend that the policy be amended to include provision for the live streaming of Ordinary and Special Council Meetings, and Council Briefings, including Public Question Time and Deputations and that these live streams be available via our Town’s webpage.
I also recommend that the policy include provision for these recorded live streams be archived on our Town’s web page and include bookmarked links to individual agenda items.
I recommend that the policy also include a provision for a sign to be prominently displayed at each recorded session notifying attendees that the meeting will be live streamed; and that the Mayor or Presiding Member make an announcement at the start of every meeting, drawing attention to the fact that session will be live streamed.
Remove unnecessary restrictions on Councillors’ Notices of Motion
Policy 6.8: The policy arbitrarily limits a Councillor’s notice of motion and background material to the maximum printed size of an A4 page document. This size restriction unnecessarily fetters the freedom of elected Councillors to represent our community and I recommend that this limitation be removed from the policy.
Remove unnecessary and possibly unlawful restrictions from Individual Councillor’s publications to our community
Policy 6.9: The policy about publications by individual Councillors contains elements of overreach that unnecessarily, and possibly unlawfully, restrict the freedom of political expression of individual Councillors.
The proposed requirement that Councillors provide a copy of any publication to the CEO for review prior to distribution is overreach. Unless the CEO intends to seek legal advice on each publication, then there is little hope of him or her ensuring that there are no defamatory or libellous statements in the publications as the policy intends. Such a determination can only be found by the Courts on the evidence.
The suggestion that the application of the policy require social media and verbal presentations to community groups be provided to the CEO prior to publication is as unfeasible as it is unnecessary, and I assume is an unintended consequence of sloppy drafting rather than a legitimate aspiration.
Any attempts to fetter the communication of Councillors is likely to be found to be in breach of the implied Constitutional freedom of political communication which has been held by the High Court to extend to all matters of public affairs and public discussions, including those of local authorities. As such, I recommend that the requirement to submit publications to the CEO be removed from the policy.
Ensure our Town’s investments are prudent and ethical
Policy 6.16: The Investment policy states that ‘preference’ will be given to invest in institutions that do not invest in or finance the fossil fuel industry. The policy is otherwise silent on other forms of investment activity that are also be ethically questionable.
Other organisations, like Local Government Super for example, do not invest in companies that derive any revenue from:
Controversial weapons – including the manufacture and/or production of controversial weapons such as land mines, cluster bombs and nuclear weapons.
Tobacco – including the manufacture and/or production of tobacco products.
Nor do they invest in companies that derive 10% or more of their revenue from:
Armaments – including the manufacture and/or production of armaments.
Gambling – including the manufacture and/or production of gambling machines and services and/or ownership of outlets housing these machines.
Old growth logging.
I recommend that the Policy be amended to make it clear that, in addition to avoiding investments in the fossil fuel industry, Town monies will not be invested in companies involved in the manufacture of land mines, cluster bombs, nuclear weapons, uranium mining, nuclear reactors, tobacco products, gambling machines and services, and the destruction of old growth forests. I also recommend that it is prudent that the policy prohibit leveraged investments, or the borrowing of money to invest in another type of investment.
Make records of prescribed Councillor contact with Developers available to our community in a more timely and transparent way
Policy 6.23: The Councillors’ Contact with Developers Policy is long overdue and broadly replicates the City of Vincent’s policy which has been in place since June 2015. I welcome the inclusion of this policy, but recommend increasing the timeliness of this much-needed transparency measure.
If Councillors are to be required to provide notification of instances of Prescribed Contact within seven days of the contact, then the Town Administration should make this information available to our community in a similarly timely way.
I recommend that Point 4 under the scope section be amended to require the CEO to update the public register within seven days of being notified by a Councillor of Prescribed Contact with a Councillor, rather than being updated monthly as is stated in the draft Policy Manual for Public Review.