By Michael Giles
IT WOULD be almost impossible to say for sure why the people of the United States voted for Donald Trump. That’s their business.
But one of the issues that seems to have bubbled to the surface during that campaign is the community is sick to death of the increasingly risk-averse nature of government and government instrumentalities to the point now where they are at great “risk” of serving no one except their own self-interest.
Here’s an example, and we’re not being critical of our own state schools, which we know battle with some incredibly complex layers of governance and compliance.
Which is a problem in itself.
When the VCE results come out, we do the usual thing and ring around for some information so we can highlight the achievements of our local kids.
However, while the private colleges run their own show and are prepared to supply all manner of information, names of successful students and the like, the state secondary colleges are much more circumspect with what they can say or reveal.
The end result is that it’s often the private schools which get the featured photo and the parents of kids at state secondary colleges are left to wonder how that happens year after year.
But it’s not about us, the media, we appreciate that.
We are also seeing an escalation in the risk-averse attitudes of Local Government as well with councillors being told that there’s almost nothing about council’s developing issues that they can discuss.
In the Councillor Code of Conduct which they all just signed is the following:
“Councillors will treat Council information appropriately in accordance with the ‘Council Access to Council Information Policy 2016 by (among other things): Not releasing information deemed ‘confidential information’ in accordance with Section 77 of the Act. This also includes information that would reasonably be perceived as confidential even if not declared in writing.”
By this and other policy settings, we are increasingly finding out that councillors are getting worried about talking about anything at all.
Apparently there’s still a furore raging in the South Gippsland Shire Council over the public release of an ‘Open Letter’ sent by Cr Don Hill, ahead of the mayoral election, to his fellow councillors.
One of the other councillors showed a copy of the letter to a mentor in the community who gave it to someone else, who then emailed it to the Sentinel-Times.
As it turned out, the ‘Open letter’ was very revealing of Cr Hill’s attitudes and went along way to impacting the result of the mayoral election, but not the way Cr Hill wanted.
But what’s wrong with a councillor talking to connections in the community to sound them out on an issue before a decision is taken – absolutely nothing. It’s exactly the way it should be done and councillors will need to drive the point hard, if necessary getting a ruling on all material before the council lest it all be roped in as “confidential”.
This of course plays right into the hands of the bureaucrats who don’t want the community to know anything about anything until it’s a done deal.
You only need to look at the dogs on the beach debacle and transfer station closure issues at Inverloch to see where keeping issues quiet gets you.
The community is becoming terribly frustrated with their inability to get a straight answer, in fact any answer at all, from all levels of government and they’re sick to death of the expediential increase in rules and regulations affecting every aspect of their lives.
On regulation in particular, the president-elect said recently: “I will formulate a rule which says that for every one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated.”
It’s an overly simplistic response for sure, but it’s the sort of cut-through comment that resonated with people in the US last month, and it’s a concern here as well.
The “public service” needs to remember what it is supposed to be doing and our local shires can’t simply pay-lip service to being open and transparent.