Question time back flip

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By Rowan Forster

Cardinia Shire bureaucrats have back flipped on a decision to scrap supplementary questions at council meetings, unveiling a proposed amendment to give the power back to ratepayers.

However, the revised question time provision will be under increased scrutiny.

It comes after several meetings in 2018 were derailed when ratepayers lambasted councillors and launched unfiltered rants as they took to the stand for a follow up question.

In September, the only remaining avenue whereby residents could seek unrehearsed, spontaneous answers from council officers was subsequently abolished.

This week, the council resolved to re-introduce supplementary questions at the discretion of the chairperson.

“A member of the gallery whose question has been answered may be permitted to ask a supplementary question if that question is designed to clarify the answer given,” the report read.

“Any such supplementary question will not be a multiple question for the purposes of clause 58.”

The amendment will be put to councillors for a final tick of approval on Monday night.

Lakeside Residents Group secretary Tony O’Hara, who was outspoken about the initial supplementary question ban, believes the council has made the right decision.

“(I’m) very happy that common-sense has prevailed,” he said.

“The recommended amendment to the local law will allow supplementary questions, with sensible conditions applied.”

While the provision of supplementary questions did have potential to disrupt meetings, it was not the reason behind the council’s decision.

The change had been proposed because Cardinia Shire was committed to webcasting council meetings.

It feared impromptu comments broadcasted online could defame individuals and result in claims for libel and slander.

Cardinia distances itself from the Casey and Greater Dandenong municipalities, which have both barred supplementary questions.

Although no community submissions were lodged regarding the initial ban, several suggestions were made on the council’s social media channels.

These suggestions included:

• Webcast the meetings with a time delay to allow for the removal of comments that are made during the meeting that may be defamatory.

• Provide for the webcast to be stopped during the broadcast if comments are made that may be

defamatory.

• Stop the webcast during community question time to allow for the questioners to ask supplementary questions.

 

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