It would have been helpful to readers if in her letter (Noosa News 26 June) Joy Ringrose was in command of the facts. But before addressing that deficiency, I need to comment on her claim that I am not “a team player” on Noosa Council. Having been elected as an independent Councillor, I have remained true to voters by maintaining the independent status on which I was elected.
This means I determine issues on their merits and work cooperatively with other councillors but always retain my right – and duty – to make decisions on behalf of the community after seeking to understand what the best interests of the community are.
Joy does not appear to comprehend some of the basic elements of how councils operate. In her unnecessarily offensive claim that “[Cr Jackson’s] latest outburst on council committee decision-making is out of line and quite impractical”, Joy needs to understand that the first principle of the Local Government Act is “transparent and effective processes, and decision-making in the public interest”. As a live record of proceedings is already taken during all Council committee meetings, it would be simple to formalise this as public minutes which are verified as true and accurate at the subsequent committee meeting.
Joy asserts that “sub-committees of a council that thrash out ideas, then make non-binding recommendations to that council, are not obliged to keep detailed minutes”. Joy is wrong. The Local Government Act requires that minutes of each council and committee meeting are taken and made public, except where Council has made a resolution to exempt a committee. Noosa Council was in breach of this requirement for four years until I recently drew attention to this. A Council majority has now exempted all three committees.
In my view Noosa Council’s General Committee meetings warrant the legality of formal minutes because significant and controversial matters are debated and motions and amendments are voted on, won and lost. It is my view that the General Committee should not have been exempted from taking minutes and making these public.
Joy further believes that “if councillors had to read detailed minutes of every sub-committee, a lot of their time would be wasted.” I find such a statement hard to believe from a person who herself stood for public office. Getting across the detail is our job. All councillors need to exercise proper diligence to fully understand matters on the agenda and inform their decision-making.
Joy also says “good managers delegate, and that is what the Noosa council is doing”. Councillors are not managers, they are decision-makers. The Council is the place where the buck stops. Council does not delegate away its responsibility. Even if exempted from taking minutes, the legislation requires committees to give the local government a written report of deliberations and advice or recommendations.
And then Joy asserts that “with council meetings open to the public, and all council minutes published on their website, we ratepayers have ample opportunity for scrutiny and input.” The whole transparency debate in Noosa recently has demonstrated that very many residents are unconvinced that they are fully informed about Council deliberations and decisions. Joy begs to differ, as is her right, but I have taken up this issue of greater transparency because I understand that the essence of democratic local government is the community being given a voice through their elected representatives and the transparent recording and dissemination of council deliberations.