The City of Melbourne would do well to read Terry Lane’s opinion piece published in the Age on December 18, 2005 .
“Democracy, as we know, is government of the people, by the people and for the people. It’s a noble concept, but how are the people to govern ourselves if we have no idea what’s going on?”
(Terry Lane is one of the Age’s most enlightened social commentators – remember his time at the ABC)
Whilst Lane’s comments are directed at the State Government they could have equally been aimed at the Melbourne City Council and many other Governments in Victoria – Green Councillor Fraser Brindley please take note.
Terry Lane’s article is about obtaining information from Governments about government. All too often we see Governments try to dodge the bullets and fire storms by trying to shut out the public from knowing the facts – Governments that are not prepared to stand by the facts and record of their administration. The former Kennett Liberal Government made an art form of it and every other government has continued on with his approach.
Lane successfully quotes the former NSW Auditor-General, Tony Harris, who says: “It appears to me that governments just don’t want to be accountable, and are using private sector participation and so are reducing the amount of information that’s available. It is really outrageous.“
To back up this statement Lane then goes on to quote Wayne Cameron, Victorian Auditor-General “An important element of the responsibility of the executive government is to make decisions affecting the direction and management of the state’s financial resources and its operations. The government of the day, in return, has an obligation to account to the parliament and, in turn, to the community for its use of public funds and resources.”
Terry Lanes sums up by proposing the question “What is it about politicians that they are such hypocrites and so averse to the very foundation of democracy that depends on the electorate knowing what is being done in their name? How can the cost of a major infrastructure project be kept secret? Are they ashamed of something?”
The same principle applies to obtaining information about Melbourne City Council’s expenditure be it the cost of a major project development, costs associated with in-house catering, Councillors’ overseas junkets or the cost of the Lord Mayor’s Limo.
The City of Melbourne has forgotten the significance of public ownership and the right of public access to information.
Even worst is the fact that some Councillors, including Green Cr Fraser Brindley, believe it is OK to hold secret sessions behind closed doors in an attempt to prevent public scrutiny and the release of information related to the costs of the City of Melbourne’s in-bound missions (the cost of inviting guest to visit Melbourne who are wined and dined at Councils expense).
Now were not saying that there is anything wrong with extending the odd invitation or two to someone to visit our city, and in the process show them a good time, but why does the City Council have to go out of their way to withhold details and information to the public on the extent of Council expenditure?
The City administration is mistaken in the belief that it is their professional responsibility to avoid disclosure.
Why is it that information on Council’s costs and expenditure is only made available to the public via Freedom of Information legislation – this is clearly an abuse of process and responsibility.
Councillor Brindley should think twice before he sells out the many supporters who voted him into office.
Former Green Councillor David Risstrom demonstrated on many occasions his commitment to the public’s right of access to information and proper process.
Sadly it was a question of timing David Risstrom stood down from the City of Melbourne to unsuccessful seek election as representative of Victoria in the Australian Senate and in the process he handed the baton over to Green Councillor Fraser Brindley.
We would like to remind Cr Brindley of his commitment to the electorate
Governance – Democracy, Accountability & Participation
“The Greens support the integrity of local government as an independent level of government enabling full and active participation of the community in governance of issues at the local level. Such governance should embrace open and consultative decision – making, and provide for clear reporting of Council’s activities.” – November 2004
Yes we all want a cleaner and healthier environment but there is more to good governance then half-baked policies on the environment. We also want honest, open and transparent government. We want to know the full extent and costs associated with the administration and governance of our city. We do not want information with-held and decisions made behind closed doors.
With the departure of Councillors Chamberlain and Kitchin the Melbourne City Council is no longer being held to account and as a result the public are worst off. Councillors Clarke, Snedden and Shanahan are fighting an up-hill battle only to be let down by Cr Brindley.
The Greens would do better to find someone that knows what they are doing, what their responsibilities are and who is prepared to protect the public’s right of access to information.
David all is forgiven please come back.