Posted 30/5/09 



Is The Minister For Or Against Democracy?

Councils Condemn Minister: Victoria The Call-In Capital





Is the Minister for or against Community Democracy?


28 May 2009


The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) has voiced its disappointment at an inappropriate media statement issued by the Minister for Local Government this week on ‘community democracy’.


Cr Bill McArthur, MAV President said that local councils were far more democratic, open, accessible and transparent than the Parliamentary processes of State and Federal elected representatives.


“Minister Wynne’s statement called for the media to be allowed to film council meetings as they are allowed to film State and Federal Parliaments.


“However, the Minister failed to acknowledge that at the State and Federal levels media is usually accredited, there is often an authorised provider of video footage, all members of the public must pass a security check point to attend Parliament and there is strictly no input allowed from the public gallery.


“Surely he understands that the media and community access policy for Parliaments is hardly comparable to ‘community democracy’ at the council level. Councils must be allowed to implement any appropriate policies to ensure behaviour at a public meeting does not prevent a council from conducting its business.


“There is a significant difference between media being present at a council meeting and media being allowed to film members of the public who may not wish to be filmed or who may become abusive towards other members of the public or the council.


“Unlike State and Federal politicians where parliamentary privilege protects their rights and there is no input allowed from the public gallery, councils allow genuine democratic input.


“However, a council should not be prevented from conducting its business due to inappropriate behaviour from members of the public or where the presence of a media video camera may actually encourage misbehaviour.


“Potentially abusive and defamatory remarks from those attending a council meeting can impede a council’s ability to function properly and allowing media to film this sort of conduct may have legal implications for those making statements.


“It is also an extraordinary contradiction for Minister Wynne to issue his statement about community democracy at the same time his Ministerial colleague is removing democratic rights from councils and communities to have input to potentially controversial and unwanted planning decisions.


“If Minister Wynne has legitimate concerns about community democracy he should be lobbying his colleague to allow the media, councils and communities access to the secret audit and decision-making processes the Minister for Planning is undertaking to fast-track thousands of planning developments.


“The Ombudsman’s report has highlighted legitimate concerns about instances of inappropriate councillor conduct that must and will be dealt with. However, there are still no requirements on the State Government or the ALP to fix their inappropriate meddling in ‘community democracy’.


“Unfortunately the misbehaviour of a small number of councillors reflects badly on us all. The majority of councillors do the right thing and put themselves forward for the right reasons,” he said.






Councils condemn Minister: Victoria the call-in capital


20 May 2009


The Municipal Association of Victoria has condemned the State Government’s decision to remove planning permit requirements for social housing and school building projects funded by the Rudd Government.


Cr Bill McArthur, MAV President said fast-tracking of infrastructure to stimulate the economy was supported but not at the expense of fair, transparent and inclusive planning processes.


“More affordable housing options are important, but with 5,000 development sites expected across Victoria in the next 18 months, the community has every right to provide input.


“This Government has a clear emphasis on ‘jobs’ and ‘stimulus’ but is completely disregarding good planning and design outcomes, neighbourhood character, local amenity and the wishes of surrounding communities.


“The MAV does not support the Minister removing community input for Federally-funded housing and school infrastructure projects simply to speed up one part of the development process.


“The State has revealed its contempt for democratic input as a key element of Victoria’s planning system. There will be no checks and balances such as public review, notification or third party appeal rights.


“As stressed by the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) to the Prime Minister and state leaders at the February Council of Australian Governments meeting, timely approvals for planning and council involvement in the assessment process are not mutually exclusive.


“In April, the Premier’s office advised the ALGA that it would consult with local government on the mechanism to expedite planning processes for school and social housing projects prior to making a decision.


“The agreement with the ALGA has clearly been breached. There has been no discussion with the sector.


“Councils’ central role in planning decisions is to balance the views of all interested parties – experts, applicants, objectors and the broader community.


“This is a key step that adds value and delivers decisions that meet state and local policy objectives, yet the Minister has granted himself sole decision-making powers.


“The Minister cannot single-handedly do the work of 79 councils. Corners will be cut and good planning outcomes compromised in order to secure jobs and meet unrealistic Commonwealth timelines.


“Developments last several generations and can’t be undone when the economic crisis is over.


“Councils and communities across Victoria have every right to be extremely worried about the erosion of important democratic input rights. It is beyond disappointing,” he concluded.


- Ends -


Contact the MAV President, Cr Bill McArthur on 0437 984 793 or MAV Communications (03) 9667 5521.




Debbie Smith

Senior Communications Adviser


Level 12, 60 Collins St

Melbourne  VIC  3000

GPO Box 4326


Ph: 9667 5521

Fx: 9667 5550

Mb: 0414 396 097