Stream screamer

COULD a livestreamed council meeting lead to murder? It’s a risk, according to Belmont council’s top brass who want to keep cameras out of the chamber.

Vincent council was the first to livestream meetings back in 2017, and now state government reforms propose making it mandatory for bigger band 1 and 2 councils (which includes almost all city councils).

Belmont CEO John Christie signed off on a report advising councillors to oppose the livestream mandate, saying “the City has concerns from a personal security and safety perspective for councillors and officers attending meetings.

“It is the CEO’s responsibility to ensure the safety of all officers at the city. It is considered that all officers, councillors, other members of the public, and the families of those in attendance at the meetings are at risk of increased violence and it poses personal safety concerns with regard to recent incidents involving public officers including those toward the premier of WA and the murder of a member of parliament in the United Kingdom. 

“Livestreaming meetings poses a direct risk to the safety of all attendees at the meetings.”

Belmont Resident and Ratepayer Action Group chair Lisa Hollands called that an “embarrassing comment” and called on councillors to delete it from Belmont’s submission on the reforms. 

At the December meeting she pointed out that citizens who speak at public question time are required to give their names and addresses, and posed “if there is such a risk of increased violence to members of the public, why does the city leave our names and addresses in the minutes?”.

Councillors voted down a move to livestreaming three votes to six, and are due to reconsider it this month when coming up with their response to the state’s overall reform package.

Vincent council brought in livestreaming in a bid to promote openness and make meetings more accessible to people who can’t show up in person. They’ve yet to see a security incident stemming from a stream. 

Belmont only recently started posting the audio recording of council meetings in late 2020, after a long tradition of requiring the public pay a $30 freedom of information fee to get ahold of them. 

by DAVID BELL

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