Category Archives: Streaming/Recording meetings

Reflections on Empowering Monash and YOU

A Review of Empowering Monash and YOU (EM&U)

Hariklia and Gayle
March 2017

As a newly elected Council is finding its feet in Monash this is a good time to reflect on the achievements and future role of EM&U.  As always we welcome the input of community members. 

EM&U was an initiative of a group of diverse active people, most of whom first met through the Save Monash Gardens campaign in 2013 /14. Throughout the aged care sale process the community contended Monash Council was not transparent or consultative. Aged care residents, their relatives and the staff were not involved in the decision process.

EM&U was formed to continue working towards better governance in Monash Council.  The aim was to better inform the community of any future Monash Council plans, to advocate for community involvement in the decision making process and to ensure the community were listened to.  We feel that EM&U has achieved significant progression toward achieving these goals over the last 3 years. In saying the EM&U has achieved this is saying YOU, the community of Monash, have achieved this. We thank you for working with us.

EM&U and community members supported or encouraged some of the following City of Monash matters:

An improved public question time

Community members have found Public Question Time is more of a brick wall than an opportunity for interactive communication and empowerment. It was stressed to Council on many occasions that the Local law relating to Public Question time should be reviewed to ensure that there are no barriers to community members asking questions and receiving appropriate responses from their council, about issues affecting them. EM&U has supported a change relating to Public Question Time.

EM&U approaches to Council on Public Question time received no interest or uptake.  However, as candidates advocated for election in the 2016 Council election this issue was often raised.  Why? Candidates knew this was a matter of importance to the community and they needed to work on community concerns to be elected.

We are pleased to say the first steps towards improving this situation have been taken by the newly elected Council.

 Related Content:

Monash Public Question time lags behind other Councils

Public Question time apparently is not Public answer time! 

 Live streaming of Council meetings

EM&U have advocated for live streaming or recording of council meetings to be implemented, to ensure community have access to Council proceedings, especially for those who are unable to attend council meetings. This will also ensure a more inclusive and transparent Council.

Monash Council, under Mayor Klisaris, knocked our submission for recording and broadcasting back.  He claimed it would cost $60,000 and the Council couldn’t afford this inclusive measure. (He did spend $37,000 on a lunch in Oakleigh.)  He claimed privacy would be breached, yet the meetings are public anyway.  Now, as the local government department puts streaming forward as a favourable transperancy measure, Monash Council acts.

The last meeting of Monash Council was streamed. See:  http://www.monash.vic.gov.au/About-Us/Council/Council-Meetings/Live-streaming-of-Council-meetings

Related Content:

Feedback to Council: Streaming/Recording of meetings

 To preserve open space and stop over development

EM&U supported the community for a vision of a peoples’ space in Glen Waverley and a healthier lifestyle for those living, working in or visiting the area. Several groups initiated submissions on open space on Glen Waverley Central Car Park.  The groups combined and well-developed and researched submissions were presented to Council. The proposals included underground car parking with easy access to shops.  A green and open space would provide an inclusive meeting place and as one real estate manager commented, ‘It would make Glen Waverley.’ Importantly, the proposal asked Monash Council NOT to proceed with the Expressions of Interest (EOIs). As in the sale of residential aged care dispute the Council went ahead regardless of the numbers of people in the community asking for a different course of action.

Throughout the community feedback process on this project the community appeared to believe the issue was whether or not the Glen Waverley Library was updated and modernised i.e. by shifting it to Central Car Park.  This was not the issue at hand.  There was no reason to stop the Library being updated and modernised on its current site.  In fact, many in the community prefer this option. In this case the Council’s marketing was clouding community understanding.  Many people still do not understand the high probability of high rise buildings being erected on Central Car Park alongside the library.

2016-02-24 09.59.42
Do you want green & open space on Central Car Park? Let your Councillors know what you think! A decision has not yet been announced.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  The Council has NOT announced the results of the tender process so please keep expressing your views on open and green space in Central Glen Waverley to your Councillors.

 Related Content:

Green Waverley: The Healthy Alternative

Green Waverley: Research Supports a Green Space for Diverse

Community Initiated Council Forum a Success!

Glen Waverley: Up She Rises!

Residential zoning in Monash

Residential zoning and development has been a huge issue of concern to people across Monash. Whether it is the creek escarpment, McMansions, the loss of sunshine and greenery or access to local schools, the increased development and changing nature of Monash has affected everyone.  EM&U has given community members a place to voice their concerns.  There is an unequal access to media and communication.  The Council has a smooth media machine and access to publications.  It is harder for the community and EM&U has done what it can to provide an outlet for community information.

EM&U supporters were active presenting to Planning Panels Victoria on their visits to Monash.  At the last meeting the newly elected Council voted to accept the Council Officers recommendations on the Planning Panel Report.

Related Content:

Save our Creek: Support NRZ4

Councillors to Vote on retaining Dandenong Creek Escarpment

Development or Devastation?

Community standstill and need to act

For a more transparent and collaborative Council

The Monash community has frequently requested the Council to involve, collaborate with and empower the community i.e. use the higher levels of the IAP2 Public Participation Spectrum http://www.iap2.org.au/documents/item/84

Related Content:

Transparency in Council

Community Discontent over Council’s Stakeholder Engagement likely to continue

No Jargon, Plain English – An Inexpensive Solution for Monash Council

Must read! Investigation into the transparency of Local Government decision making process

Looking into the future of Empowering Monash and YOU

The purpose of EM&U was to foster a community where all community members have access to knowledge, community services and media. Community members should be partners in democratic decision making in local government and engaged at the community level and be actively involved in advocating for areas considered a social responsibility, including quality in aged care and inclusive practice. We do hope that the Council will endeavour to make improvements and give the community an opportunity to have a say in the near future.

As key people take on different roles in their lives we question where EM&U is going.  At this point in time the emphasis is on the Facebook page. Time will tell whether there is a role to play into the future. We welcome your views.

Thank you for your support and please, follow us on Facebook.

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Must read! Investigation into the transparency of local government decision making

Council Transparency

The Investigation into the transparency of local government decision making has been completed and the report publicly released.

I took the time to read through this report and found it very informative and interesting that it revealed some issues relating to Councils. Community members had reasonable concerns about transparency in their Councils and in fact there were many complaints  made to the Ombudsman.

“This investigation arose from a single complaint about a decision made in a closed council meeting – a practice that we found to be widespread across Victoria. Some complaints resonate as a theme: local councils continue to account for some 25 per cent of jurisdictional complaints to my office – more than 3,400 last year. People complaining to my office about council decisions periodically refer to the decision being made “in secret” or “behind closed doors” as evidence to support their concerns. I tabled the report into the original complaint in June 2016, but this has been a far wider investigation, looking at the transparency of decision-making within local government in Victoria.” Source: Deborah Glass Ombudsman.

As part of the investigation 79 Victorian councils were surveyed and 12  were selected to be examined in detail.  

The areas of focus were:

the closure of council meetings and special committee meetings to     the public

• the handling of confidential matters

• the nature and quality of audio and visual records of meetings and       the public’s ability to access records

• the scope and exercise of delegated council functions/powers and       administrative actions; and the reporting of these to council and           the public

• the nature and content of information discussed in ‘assemblies of         councillors’

Due to the findings, there were specific recommendations made in the report to be introduced or implemented. Here is a summary of   some of the recommendations or suggestions:

• relating to the Local Government Act, a requirement for more              detailed reasons in relation to the closure of meetings to be                    specified in the minutes and that embarrassment to, or potential          adverse criticism of, council are not reasons to close a meeting to        the public

implement a mandatory ‘Code of Councillor Conduct’ training               program       

• conflict of interest requirements to extend to advisory committee      members and to have an updated list of committees on a Council’s      website                               

• ensure that agendas are made available to public five days before a     council meeting

 public questions and answers to be recorded in minutes,  through       audio or audio-visual recording and publication, as well as posting       recorded open meetings to council websites

Did you know about section 15 Your right to freedom of expression’ under the Human Rights Charter?  

“People are free to say what they think and want to say. They have the right to find, receive and share information and ideas. In general, this right might be limited to respect the rights and reputation of other people, or for the protection of public safety and order.” Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission

How does this right play a role in Council? As stated in the report: 

“Councils also need to take care regarding restrictions on public question time. Unreasonable restrictions have the potential to be incompatible with not only the right to participate in public life, but the right to freedom of expression in section 15 of the Charter. For example, where councils require questions in writing prior to meetings, they should ensure there is appropriate assistance available to those who may have difficulty placing their question in writing. A number of councils mentioned they offered such assistance. Councils should also ensure that any restriction on the content of questions or submissions by members of the public at meetings which could be considered to limit their right to freedom of expression is appropriately balanced with any lawful restrictions reasonably necessary to respect the rights and reputation of other persons or national security, public order, public health or public morality.”

You will also find a summary of transparency in the report:
What does a transparent council look like?
What does a transparent council look like?
Page 150 -151 of the Investigation into the transparency of local government decision making report. Click to view!

Link to full report: Victorian Ombudsman: Investigation into the transparency of local government decision making

Related links: 

Local government transparency a postcode lottery: Victorian Ombudsman

Victorian public being shut out of local council meetings, ombudsman says

Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass says councils must be more transparent over their decisions

Empowering Monash & YOU post – Transparency in Council 

Empowering Monash & YOU post – Feedback to Council: Streaming/recording of meetings

Comments are welcome!

HarikNG – Administrator and Contributer

Empowering Monash & YOU

City of Monash Election Results – Meet Your New Councillors!

Monash Council

The City of Monash Election results were finalised on Sunday 30 October 2016. The following candidates were successful and elected:

Glen Waverley ward

Geoff Lake (re-elected)
Lynnette Saloumi (first-time Councillor)

Mount Waverley ward

Brian Little (re-elected)
Rebecca Paterson (re-elected)
Mt Pang Tsoi (first-time Councillor)

Mulgrave ward

Paul Klisaris (re-elected)
Robert Davies (re-elected)
Shane McCluskey (first-time Councillor)

Oakleigh ward

Theo Zographos (re-elected)
Stuart James (re-elected)
Josh Fergeus (first-time Councillor)

Gayle Nicholas who is the founder of Empowering Monash and YOU, sadly was not successful in been elected for the Glen Waverley Ward, but campaigned very well and had a worthwhile experience. Link: Following an unsuccessful bid 4 Monash Council. EM&U will continue to push or support for recording and broadcasting of Monash Council meetings, which Gayle has also strongly advocated for. Click on link provided for further details abut streaming of council meetings and what some Councillors had to say prior to elections. Link: Feedback to Council: Streaming/Recording of Meetings.  

You will have an opportunity to meet the elected Councillors at the:

  • Council Civic Centre (293 Springvale Rd, Glen Waverley), Monday 31 October, at 5pm. The VEC will declare the election results. For the City Of Monash election results, visit the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) website.
  • Special Council meeting (Council Chambers), Thursday 3 November at 6:30pm. Councillors will be sworn in, and a Mayor and Deputy Mayor elected or a date set for the election of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor. 
Community Members are welcome to attend! 

For more info click on link provided: City of Monash Council 

Attention Update! ‘Hands on Head’ at Monash Council Meetings

Do you remember this post? Have you heard? Monash Council meetings just like a school class? | Empowering Monash & YOU

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Monash Council has introduced measures to improve the functioning of Council meetings. However many believe that Council meetings are now more like a school classroom. “If people behave like children and act in an unprofessional way, they can expect to be treated like children.  I make no apologies for that.  I was elected Mayor a few weeks ago to fix our dysfunctional meetings and I am determined to do that” stated Mayor Geoff Lake – Hands on heads improves Monash Council meeting. Councillors were required to place hands on their head if they wish to raise a point of order.

Now after spending $10,000 on his idea of a behaviour monitor and taping the meetings (which other Councillors were not allowed to assess) Mayor Geoff Lake wants to relax the  ‘Hands on head’ requirement!  

Snippets of Motion Document:

Cr Geoff Lake

“I proposed that these matters be raised by a councillor silently signalling their desire to raise a Point of Order or move a Procedural Motion. In the case of a Point of Order, this could be done by placing both hands on their head. In the case of a Procedural Motion, it was by placing one hand on their head. Although ‘novel’ and ridiculed by some, the adoption of these measures immediately improved the functioning of our meetings. Since the May meeting, we have barely had a single Point of Order and no disruptive Procedural Motion raised. Part of the reason for this improvement has been because the signalling process meant that it was immediately apparent what it is that a councillor is wishing to raise – i.e. a Point of Order or a Procedural Motion – and the mayor is placed in the position of being able to immediately and specifically engage the Councillor on the matter they are raising. These measures have succeeded in making Points of Order and Procedural Motions an exception rather than the norm they had previously become. As I said at the time of proposing these reforms, I am not concerned in the slightest if requiring someone to put their hands on their head does dis-incentivise a councillor from Council Meeting, 19 October 2016 Section 7.3 – Page 4 Mission Accomplished: time To Relax the ‘Hands On Heads’ Requirements moving these – as we were getting far too many of these interventions than was warranted or reasonable. Indeed we were getting more Points of Order and Procedural Motions raised at a single meeting than what was experienced across the entire previous four year Council term. I am pleased that since the May reforms, we are once again back to how things were in the previous term.” 

“I thank all councillors and attendees in the Public Gallery for contributing to the improvement of our meetings. Given this improvement being sustained over the past five months, I recommend to Council that we now relax the more contentious and onerous elements of the Supplementary Standing Orders (i.e. the ‘hands on head’ requirements) because the objectives of these measures have now been realised. With a new Council to take office from the November meeting onwards, it is appropriate in my view that it be given the chance to conduct its meetings in the professional and respectful way expected by our community without the need for these more extraordinary measures which were unfortunately necessary five months ago.” Source: Motion to relax ‘hands on head’ requirement.

But why is he adding the motion now? The requirement was not relaxed when community was  so against it?

Is it  really due to the excuse that behaviour has been improved or is it possible, due to the Monash Council elections and voting by the 21 October 2016? What do you think?  Leave your comments by clicking on the Leave a Comment button above.

 

Unpublished Letter to the Editor re Monash Council Local Law 1

Many of the ‘letters’ community members send to the newspapers do not get published.  EM&U will publish selected community focussed Letters to the Editor on this web site.

Send your unpublished piece to EMonashU@gmail.com.

Note we reserve the right to choose which letters we will publish.  Abusive, offensive material and material not focussed on the community will not be published.

The email below was sent to Leader Press on 17 June:

Dear Editor,

It was pleasing, at the Monash Council Committee meeting 16 June, to see a reduced power distance between Councillors and Public Gallery. Gallery members who had not made submissions were allowed to speak and ask questions. Whether due to the particular composition of the gallery or a desire to genuinely consult with the community this is a refreshing change from a Council that has rigidly stuck to seventies style procedures and local laws.
The Council needs to go further and revise Local Law 1 to be more in line with other Councils and current business practices. Public Question Time procedures need to be updated allowing members of the public to ask questions and questions to be submitted before the meeting starts (instead of the day before). Meetings should be broadcast for those who cannot attend. Currently there are groups in our community who are unable to attend meetings. Examples are people with disabilities, elderly who do not go out at night and shift workers.
Let’s hope “the times they are a-changing”.

Gayle, Glen Waverley

Related links:

Monash Council Local Law 1

Recording /streaming Council meetings benefits disabled constituents

The following case for the streaming/recording Council meetings was sent to EM&U by one of our readers who wants to remain anonymous.  Identity details have been provided to EM&U and we have decided to publish.  We reserve the right to use our discretion on whether to publish.

I suffer from a variety of medical conditions which can make it very difficult for me to attend council meetings. The other issue is I do not want to constantly rely on my carer to take me to these meetings; this takes away my independence and puts a burden on carer. If I can view the meetings as live streaming or recorded at least I can feel like I am present at meetings. I do not want to read thru long minutes each time to know what was discussed at meetings I prefer to see it as it happens.

anonymous reader (identity details provided)

Reader’s letter to Monash Council supporting streaming / recording of meetings:

letter to Monash Council 17 December 2014
letter to Monash Council 17 December 2014 – click on image for larger version

 

Please let us  know what you think by leaving your comments in the ‘reply’ window below, or click on ‘leave a comment’ above

Related posts

Feedback to Council: streaming/recording of meetings

 

Feedback to Council: streaming/recording of meetings

Tonight’s (16 Dec) Monash Council meeting agenda includes a motion ‘Taking Council to the People’  by rotating Council meeting venues in 2015. The goals of the motion are not stated by the title implies the aim is improve community access to Council proceedings.

As Monash Council invites feedback from constituents I decided to provide feedback on an issue I had been pondering for some time: live streaming and recording of meetings.  My previous work places used such communication methods and my personal view was this would greatly aid community education and engagement in Council meetings.

What do you think? 
Would you like to see live streaming and /or recording of meetings?
Please read the correspondence below and leave your comments.

 

Monash Council Public Gallery overflowed during the aged care protest in 2013.  Usually there are spare seats.
Monash Council Public Gallery overflowed during the aged care protest in 2013. Usually there are spare seats.

 

My reply to Monash Council email 16 Dec 2014. Note: original Email reply received from Monash Council on 15 Dec 2014 is in black text with my response in red text.

Further below, in green text is my original email 14 Dec 2014.

Dear Paul,

I am rather taken aback at the reply I have received (on your behalf) to my email 15 Dec 14 requesting Council consider recording and streaming of Council meetings. In particular in regard to discovering a review of Local Law 1 was carried out in 2013: I have no recollection of this and I wonder whether there was any public consultation. So soon after a review I would have expected Monash to have more transparent and engaging meeting procedures.

Further comments to the email are inserted in red italics in your email text below.

I refer to your 14 December 2014 e-mail to the Mayor, Cr Klisaris, regarding webcasting/streaming of Council meetings.

The Mayor has requested me to provide you with a response on his behalf.

Thank you. I await the Mayor’s response on issues not addressed in the reply email e.g. the need to revamp Public Question Time.

An internal review of the Council’s Meeting Procedures Local Law No.1 was undertaken in late 2013. Part of the review included investigating webcasting/streaming of Council meetings.

The community is very aware of the review of Local Law 3 but this is the first I have heard of a review of Local Law 1. Evidently community feedback was not sought on this process. Community members who have tried to communicate with Council have much constructive feedback they could input to such a process. Would you make public all aspects of Local Law 1 that were considered during this review and the nature of public consultation?

The review found the following:

A small number of Councils currently stream Council meetings. These include Greater Dandenong, Nillumbik and Hobsons Bay.

As far as I can ascertain the following Councils are currently streaming or recording meetings and making these available online: Bayside (last recording 8 Dec 14), Campaspe (16 Dec), Cardinia (17 Nov 14), Hobsons Bay (2 Dec 14), Manningham (2 Dec 14), Wellington (5 Nov 14).

The small number of Councils streaming may be in part due to the poor financial situation some Councils are in. Monash Council is in a position to allocate funds to such a project and with 2014-2015 Budget currently being formulated revisiting this issue is timely. Unfortunately, there is no opportunity for community members to have input on the drafting of the budget.

The Shire of Cardinia and the cities of Melbourne and Greater Dandenong were involved in webcasting some years ago, when the Municipal Association of Victoria assisted interested Councils with funding, for a trial of webcasting. Both Melbourne and Cardinia ceased their webcasting, once the trial concluded. The ongoing costs, support and risk-related issues (please see the comments below from Council’s insurer) appear to have played a part in that decision.

The City of Greater Dandenong last posted a recording online for its meeting on 8 December 2014, the Shire of Cardinia on 17 November 2014. If they are still recording they have found the MAV trial had some worthwhile results and, by implication, have a case for value gained against cost.

Cardinia Shire Council recently re-visited the issue, but resolved not to pursue it. It costed the establishment of streaming at approximately $60,000. This cost involves the purchase of equipment, such as cameras, technical set up in the Council Chamber, technical support at meetings and costs for a carrier. The costs excluded staff training and possible editing of content. Cardinia’s assessment was that the cost of providing the service, relative to the likely demand within, and benefit to, the Cardinia community, appeared to be a major impediment at this point in time.

Cardinia Shire Council must have valued the importance of transparency and communicating with the community. They are using the less expensive option of MP3s to put 2014 meeting recordings online.

Was a comparison made of the requirements in Cardinia compared to the requirements in Monash? What other investigations were made of set ups for other Councils e.g. Melton where only audio recording is used? Do we need ‘state of art’ technology to meet the goal of communicating with the community? The appearance of an impediment in Cardinia is hardly a case for not pursuing the possibilities further in Monash. As the technology and skills are readily available across local industry and government sectors the Council needs to explore the options from many perspectives rather than randomly quoting an example.

The City of Yarra also considered webcasting, but decided not to pursue it. Issues of privacy, consent from members of the public to broadcast their images, etc, were cited as part of the reason Yarra was not pursuing webcasting.

The issue of content management has been raised by a number of Councils in relation to their assessment of whether to pursue webcasting or podcasting.

Preparing Policies and Procedures are essential when considering such a venture. See http://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/AboutCouncil/Meetings/Documents/GUIDELINES%20FOR%20THE%20RECORDING%20OF%20COUNCIL%20AND%20COMMITEE%20PROCEEDINGS.pdf for an example of how to deal with these issues.

Privacy was another matter of concern. Concerns were raised about the reach of the ‘world wide web’ and individuals’ (usually members of the public) identities being placed on it. Consent would have to be obtained from any person who wished to make a submission or ask a question, for their appearance at the Council meeting to be recorded. These concerns were expressed where a Council provides for a high level of engagement/participation in a Council meeting by the community.

Again these issues need to be raised but with the purpose of providing a solution e.g. Greater Dandenong Council reads questions on behalf of the community member asking the question. Examples of Policies and Procedures for dealing with the issues are available online on government, university and other business web sites. As Monash persists with submitted questions the day before the meeting it would be easy to put a permission slip on a pro forma to be used. The questioner could tick boxes as to whether they will be filmed or a Council Office requested to ask their question and that they have read conditions/requirements/disclaimer regarding giving permission to be filmed/recorded. I accept a legal perspective on this approach is needed.

Webcasting has received a significant amount of attention in the sector in recent years, from a risk management perspective. Council’s insurer has provided advice, of a general nature, to Councils on webcasting. The insurer has listed the following risks relating to webcasting of Council meetings:

Public Council meetings are an open forum of statements, questions and answers. Occasionally, some things that are said may be regarded as offensive or defamatory, even though they are not at law, written material. When such statements occur during a meeting that is not webcast the potential for damage is confined to the audience in attendance.

In contrast, when a meeting is webcast the audience is potentially far greater, increasing the likelihood and/or severity of potential liability. Outlined below are some of the risks associated with webcasting, including defamation. The risks identified generally relate to the content of a meeting and the legal effect of publishing the content over the internet.

Councillors and members of the public attending meetings are not outside the law or responsibility to act in an ethical manner. The rest of the workforce conducts itself in an ethical and law abiding manner. Why should Monash Councillors be exempt? Are they breaking the law or acting unethically now? If a Councillor believes their behaviour in Council will step outside the law e.g. defaming a person, infringing copyright, I really hope they will step down and allow the community to elect a representative who can perform to regular work place quality standards.

In properly conducted Council meetings wouldn’t the risk factor be low? Did legal staff give an estimate of what it might be? Can copyright be breached and defamation occur in a vetted 100 word question?

There are ‘safety’ measures that can be employed to further minimise risk e.g. time delays between Chamber taping and publishing on the web, provision for the recording to be halted (and restarted) should a legal issue arise and prior notice (with reasons) for not recording some agenda items. This technology is not new, but widely used in workplaces. There is plenty of experience to draw on.

In summary Council needs to seek further appropriate legal advice and develop policy and procedures in accordance with best practice in this field. A Council that has cash reserves, such as Monash Council, should be able to undertake this and consider insurance.

However, before a cost benefit analysis can be effectively done the issue needs to be put to the community. The people who most need this facility do not appear to have been consulted.

Defamation
Defamation occurs when statements are made about a person, which causes injury to that person’s reputation. A defamatory statement can be in written form, or in verbal form. Council may be liable for defamatory statements made by Councillors and the public during a Council meeting. This liability is increased if the meeting is webcast.

Infringement of Copyright
A copyright owner has certain exclusive rights over their work. Infringement of copyright occurs when a person uses copyright material without the consent of the owner and the use contravenes one or more of the ‘exclusive rights’ of the owner. If someone at a Council meeting reads material subject to copyright, without the consent of the copyright owner, the person may have violated the copyright owner’s exclusive right to reproduce the material, if published as a webcast.

Breach of Privacy/Disclosure of Personal Information
Councils are required to comply with the Information Privacy Principles contained within the thenInformation Privacy Act (now superseded by the Data Protection and Privacy Act 2014). Councils may be liable for breach of the Information Privacy Principles if Councillors or Council Officers are found to have used, or disclosed, personal, health or sensitive information about individuals during a Council meeting and that information is webcast.

Publishing of Offensive Material
Council may be liable for a criminal offence under Commonwealth censorship legislation if it publishes content through a webcast relating to sex, drugs or violence, which is likely to cause offence to a reasonable person.

Councils are covered for any defamatory ‘publication’ that occurs as a result of webcasting activities subject to the other terms and conditions of its insurance policy. The policy would, for example, cover the Council’s liability for inadvertently webcasting a deliberate, malicious defamatory comment. However, a Councillor or Officer knowingly making a deliberately malicious or defamatory statement would not be covered.

Councils are provided with coverage in risk areas of defamation, infringement of copyright and privacy breaches. But that coverage does not extend to liability arising from publishing defamatory statements made by third parties i.e. members of the public. Coverage is also subject to existing policy conditions, in particular a Council demonstrating that it acted with ‘reasonable care’.

Pre-recorded or live broadcasts
The insurer recommends that Councils pre-record the webcast and ensure that it is thoroughly reviewed and signed off by an authorised member of Council before the webcast is made publicly available. For those Councils which prefer to broadcast meetings live or only with a short delay, it is important that a procedure is followed for the identification and treatment of problematic content (e.g. termination of webcast). A Council’s decision to pre‐record or broadcast live should take into consideration the level of risk exposure it is willing to retain.

A Council would need to consider whether the webcast will be made available for download at a later date or will only be accessible via Council’s website as a live broadcast. Both present risks.

A downloadable webcast can be viewed several times and may reach a greater audience than a live broadcast, thus increasing the potential of a claim arising. On the other hand, defamatory content is more likely to be found in a live broadcast which has undergone little or no editing compared to a pre-recorded (downloadable) webcast.

Members of the Public
A Council should ensure members of the public attending the Council meeting are notified of the webcast and obtain their written consent to record and publish their likeness and/or voice as part of the webcast.

Disclaimer
Councils may consider accompanying the webcast with a disclaimer, to provide some limited protection from liability. Generally, a disclaimer will include words to the effect that the opinions or statements made during the course of the Council meeting are those of the particular individual and not the opinions or statements of Council. The disclaimer can be included as part of the broadcast or separately as a link on the webpage prior to opening the link to the actual webcast. Councils should seek independent legal advice on the appropriate wording of a disclaimer to ensure that it meets Councils specific requirements.

Council should seek independent legal advice if in doubt about the appropriateness of the content of a webcast, prior to making it available.

For the reasons articulated above, the Council has not pursued webcasting/streaming of Council meetings.

This email, Monash Council’s answer to feedback on an issue I know to be of concern to some of the community (streaming or recording of meetings), indicates no willingness to engage the community. Once again it appears Council has acted in a reactive rather than proactive manner, dismissing feedback rather than taking it on. Council could, for example, engage the community and contact the new Local Government Minister, LGAV, other Councils, businesses, to create the possibility of working through this issue and improving Council communication.

I look forward to responses to my questions above.

Email sent to Mayor Cr Paul Klisaris 14 Dec 2014

Dear Paul,

I note with much interest your motion for Tuesday evening’s meeting to take the Council meetings to different venues throughout 2015. An initiative to encourage more community members to be at least present at Council meetings is very welcome.

May I suggest the issue of live streaming and recording of meetings be revisited (Monash Leader August 6 2013). The live streaming and recording of meetings will greatly increase the opportunities to educate and involve the community in local government. In particular Monash’s increasing senior and elderly community will have access to Council proceedings – if not in their homes through the Library and Senior Citiizens groups that have access to and capability with technology. Younger community members may also be more connected through such media use. Councillors, the community and the media will have access to accurate records of proceedings facilitating better reporting, communication and understanding.

Cr Drieberg indicates in the August 6 article that visits to public areas are a replacement for recordings. I contend, while Listening Posts are a welcome initiative, they largely serve a different purpose to the streaming and recording of meetings. The Listening Posts give members of the public the chance to pursue personal interests or to clarify concerns, whereas live streaming and recording of meetings gives the public a broader view of Council’s function and instant and efficient access to local government processes and procedures. A potential for translating meetings exists.

Below I have listed some Councils who are already streaming and/or recording – it is far from an exhaustive list. It would be nice to see Monash Council up there with the more innovative Councils and taking on more progressive and innovative approaches to community engagement.

I would like to point out I was going to put this in a question for Public Question Time but I am so fed up with the antiquated process Monash hides behind. I have squeezed my questions into the required 100 words only to find the meaning of the question is harder to discern, stood there and read it out and listened to a reply being read, a reply that usually does not address the essence of my query. Others express similar experiences. Public Question Time is a farce. Proactive Councils allow more questions per person, questions to be submitted just before the meeting starts, longer time periods for question time, a right of reply and public submissions on matters of interest. Hopefully you can develop Public Question Time into a more productive contributor to Council meetings and communication with the local community.

Please note I have copied this email to all Councillors, Dr Andi Diamond, EM&U supporters and the Leader Press.