By Natalee Kerr
A recent proposal to restrict public questions at Surf Coast Shire meetings is “extreme and anti-democratic”, according to shadow local government minister Tim Smith.
“Surf Coast (Shire) is acting frankly more like a dictatorship then a democratic council,” he said on Wednesday.
The shire proposed to place restrictions on public question time and notice of motions under new changes to its local law.
Public questions would be subject to a 200-word limit and must not be aimed at “drawing opinions” from councillors, if the draft proposal is approved.
The public will also no longer be able to ask questions without prior notice or have their questions answered directly by councillors, other than the chairperson.
3228 Local Residents Association secretary Sue O’Shanassy labelled the proposal “disrespectful” and “unfair”.
“The changes infringe on my rights and the rest of the community’s,” she said.
“It will restrict public engagement. Council claim they want to engage with people, so then why do they try to restrict it?”
The shire said the proposed changes “are intended to improve the efficiency and governance of meetings”.
Ms O’Shanassy however said the changes were “very concerning” and was unsure as to why they had to be made.
“There has been no demonstration of inefficacy,” she said.
A hearing held earlier this week revealed council received 49 community submissions opposing the draft.
The revised draft will be considered for adoption at this month’s council meeting.