Monash Public Question time lags behind other Councils

Protesters against the sale of residential aged care in the City of Monash have found Public Question Time more of a brick wall than an opportunity for enlightenment and empowerment.

The following issues over Public Question Time arose for the  meeting of Monash City Council on 17 December:

  • a volunteer and nominee for award in the City of Monash was declined the right to ask a question in Public Question Time under the Local Law which states questions may only be asked by a resident or ratepayer
  • A vote to extend question time beyond 20 minutes so that all 20 questions submitted could be asked was lost 5 votes to 4.  Although strictly correct according to the Local Law the inability of this Council to understand the impact of the aged care sale on the community was apparent.  It was hard for the gallery to comprehend the the total disregard this showed to the seriousness of this issue in the community.

Monash City Council’s Local Law on Meeting Procedure may be viewed at:  http://www.monash.vic.gov.au/council/pdftext/local-law1.pdf.

Note: Monash Council requires questions to be submitted in writing by 12 noon on the day before the meeting and the answer is pre-written and read out in meetings.  Only a resident or ratepayer may ask a question and only one question per person may be submitted. There is a 100 word limit to questions.

A quick perusal of a sample of Council Local Laws on the internet revealed that many Councils are indeed more open than Monash City Council.  No other council was found to limit questions to residents and ratepayers and 20 minutes was the shortest question time. The Council did vote 0n 17 December to suspend the requirement that questions relate to the agenda or minutes but no other Local laws viewed require this in the first instance.

Ballarat Council allows the public to speak to agenda items at Ordinary & Special meetings and Special Committees.  This provision allows for the public a greater opportunity to express views and have input than any provision in Monash.

Sample of Public Question time at Local Councils:

Geelong City Council: http://www.geelongaustralia.com.au/ct/documents/item/8cb1d07fa69cf5e.aspx#3.12

Members of the public may ask questions: not required to be a ratepayer or resident.
Limit 3 minutes per person asking question: no time limit  to question time.
No requirement to be on the agenda or minutes.

City of Whitehorse:  http://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CDcQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.whitehorse.vic.gov.au%2FDownloadDocument.ashx%3FDocumentID%3D5020&ei=BeHHUsbeKsfNkwXn1IBA&usg=AFQjCNGzCOtIWTlu4oYSk4i6MokQXN6UUg&bvm=bv.58187178,d.dGI

Members of the public may ask questions: not required to be a ratepayer or resident.
Two questions per person may be submitted.
Questions lodged prior to start of meeting.
30 minute time limit.

City of Ballarat:  http://www.ballarat.vic.gov.au/media/890324/local_law_18_meeting_procedures_22_aug_2012.pdf

Members of the public may ask questions: not required to be a ratepayer or resident.
Two questions per person may be submitted.
30 minute time limit.
The public may make representations on any agenda item at an Ordinary Meeting, Special Meeting or Special Committee Meeting.

City of Greater Dandenong:  http://www.greaterdandenong.com/document/32/local-laws

Members of the public may ask questions: not required to be a ratepayer or resident.
Three questions per person may be submitted
Questions may be lodged 15 minutes after meeting starts
60 minute time limit
No requirement to be on agenda or minutes

Monash constituents arrive at Council meeting in good faith.

Monash constituents arrive at Monash Council wanting to ask questions.

What do you think?  Should Monash Council be voting on such a serious issue as the sale of aged care residences when its process so restricts the public from putting its point of view?

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One thought on “Monash Public Question time lags behind other Councils

  1. City of Melbourne has a 30 minute question time at the start of their meeting. Questions are limited to 90 seconds (and only one per person) but Councillors first attempt to answer the question and refer to Council staff for specific detail if needed. If the 30 minute question time at the start of the meeting is insufficient, a further 30 minutes is allocated at the end of the formal business agenda.

    And the meeting is recorded and the recording is posted online so anybody can hear exactly what was said, and by whom, about any specific issue.

    Like

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