In both of the last two council election periods, I went along to the Victorian Electoral Commission’s Candidate Information Session held in Leongatha. They were simple meetings with a VEC presenter and numerous potential candidates, where everyone interacted happily.

Last Wednesday I tuned in for what I assumed would be similar, only via Zoom (or equivalent), which we’re pretty used to by now. How wrong I was!

The VEC had taken advantage of being able to manipulate the “meeting” so that they could control it completely. There were now four presenters with live pictures arranged across the top of my screen, but where was the audience? I was the only one named on my screen and neither my camera nor my microphone were switched on for the entire session! I presume there were other people sitting at screens too but I have no way of knowing.

The only way to ask a question was to type it into my computer where no one but me and the VEC could see it. The VEC would then “read” the question in the way they thought it should have been put (both my questions were significantly re-phrased) then give an answer. I found both answers incomplete at best and wanted to ask follow-up questions but that clearly wasn’t going to get anywhere.

Two days later a document arrived in my email purporting to show the questions and answers from the session. My second question, which asked why we weren’t able to see the other meeting participants, didn’t rate a mention!

Now I find this sort of controlling and secretive behaviour coming from people who are employed to serve the public, quite disturbing, but unfortunately I’m not surprised. You might say it’s no big deal in this case as there’s really nothing to hide, but that actually makes it even more disturbing: imagine the incentive for secrecy and obfuscation when there really is something your paid servants would rather keep to themselves!

Only when people (such as SG Shire residents) believe that organisations (such as SG Shire Council) are being straight with them, will they give that organisation their trust (with high Customer Satisfaction ratings, for instance). With the culling of question time and less satisfaction from Freedom of Information requests recently, it seems that those of us who get elected to council next month will have their work cut out.

Frank Hirst, Ranceby, candidate for Strzelecki Ward.