The action taken by the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, and all councillors in preventing the reading of public questions at the March council meeting is unprecedented in the history of Bass Coast Shire to my knowledge.

BCRRA considers that the excuse presented by the Mayor, to wit the number of questions and the first hybrid meeting, is entirely unsatisfactory and inadequate.

There were only 21 questions from 15 community members. The average length of questions, including preambles, was 27 words. Perhaps only 10-15 minutes’ worth of public questions and responses to be read.

The council meeting lasted just one hour and 12 minutes. This included some seven minutes of delay due to technical issues. Perhaps one of the shortest council meetings in recent times.

BCRRA will be lodging a complaint with councillors against their unprecedented action.

BCRRA will also be lodging a complaint with councillors about their newly introduced restriction against transparency whereby they censor and prohibit the presentation of uncomfortable questions to council.

It is my experience that such questions are censored without councillors providing proper substantive reasons for their decision to censor.

As part of its Council Plan Strategic Objective of “Leading for our Community”, this council claims that it is “demonstrating leadership through good governance, transparency and accountability”.

However, the actions taken by councillors at the March meeting make this claim ring hollow.

As long-term ratepayers and residents are likely aware, the reality is that in recent years Bass Coast Shire Council has steadily introduced an increasing range of restrictions and impediments against reasonable questioning by the community, and by councillors themselves.

The actions taken by councillors at the March meeting would seem to indicate that they intend to continue to introduce further measures against reasonable criticism and questioning.

Democracy is a fragile right.

If governments and elected officials, including those in Bass Coast Shire, prevent reasonable questioning and criticism of their actions, then surely Australia is heading down the path of becoming as undemocratic as many countries around the globe.

Bass Coast Ratepayers and Residents Association will always make best efforts to hold our local elected representatives and the administration to account.

Kevin Griffin, President, Bass Coast Ratepayers and Residents Association.