VINCENT and Bayswater councils are in the throes of joining Perth to make recordings of meetings available online.
With council transparency a hot discussion leading up to WALGA’s annual conference, the Chook took a look at a few councils around the metro area.
Everyone in WA is entitled to attend open council meetings, but the ease of catching up on missed episodes depends on your local government area.
Generally, the further south you travel, the harder it is to get access to recordings.
Perth council has been uploading recordings of its meetings since May, in response to the controversy surrounding lord mayor Lisa Scaffidi not declaring travel and gifts, so listening to debate is never more than a few clicks away.
Vincent and Bayswater currently charge about $30 for people coming in to listen to the recordings.
Stirling doesn’t charge any fees to access recordings at its town hall.
Down south, Melville and Cockburn say they only record meetings for their minute-takers, and require freedom of information requests to access the audio; which can knock ratepayers back a $30 application fee on top of paying for a staffer to stand over their shoulder while they’re listening.
The Voice’s sister paper the Fremantle Herald was recently quoted $90 by Melville to have audio from one section of a council meeting copied onto a disk.
East Fremantle is even more behind the times, and doesn’t even take audio recordings of its meetings.
Cr Reece Harley was behind the push to have Perth council meetings put online, and says since anyone can attend council meetings, people who are far away or immobile should be able to listen in as well.
“To me it’s a basic tenet of democracy that people, the community, has access to the decision-making processes of local, state, and federal governments. At federal and state level the parliaments have Hansard, so any member of the public can read the entire proceedings of parliament.
“However at local government level, that is not the practice so the next best thing is to have audio recordings available,” says Cr Harley.
The City of Vincent is in the process of getting streamable audio online.
“I find it extraordinary that someone has to do an FOI to get a copy of the recording. That is a sad state of affairs in my opinion,” mayor John Carey says.
“I just think – what do you have to hide?”
by TRILOKESH CHANMUGAM