Eurobodalla Shire Council (ESC) is in the spotlight this week as the NSW Information and Privacy Commission launches its Right to Know Week calling on all public sector organisations to open up their operations and respect their local community’s access to government-held information.
“In other words,” said Eurobodalla Labor for Council’s Mayoral candidate, David Grace “stop the secrecy. This is about encouraging citizens to take an active interest in their right to information,” he said today. “Labor is determined to turn the ESC situation around as a matter of high priority.
“Our underlying philosophy in all of our campaign is the absolute need for integrity in everything council does: restoring transparency to council decision-making processes; demonstrating full accountability by council staff, delegates and elected councillors; and ensuring full community engagement.
“Right to Know week’s theme is Open by Design: Integrity through greater transparency and accountability in government which we believe is the exact opposite of what shire residents experience with the current council’s culture of non-transparency and unaccountability.
“After the 4 December council elections and if given the opportunity, Labor councillors will move to bring our council’s meeting rules into the 21st century where public debate and full accountability go hand-in-hand,” Mr Grace added.
Eurobodalla Labor for Council’s ‘right to know’ policy initiatives include, among a range of undertakings, a commitment to: the creation of an improved transparency staff culture through initiatives around internal policy guidelines and training; more transparency around ‘code of conduct’ complaint processing; improvements in the nature and standard of relevant legal advice; keeping the number of closed sessions at council meetings to the absolute minimum; and a return to the webcasting of public forum presentations.
“There is a real benefit for the community when there is maximum transparency in a council’s operations,” Mr Grace said “but it’s not something which has been occurring at the ESC for a long time. There has been a decade of reporting on the operation of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 in NSW but you’d never know it from the lack of openness at our council.
“Put simply, it is a fundamental human right to have access to information and for those who have ownership of it — such as ESC — to promote open, transparent government.
“After all, information helps the council, its staff and all of the ratepayers to design and produce relevant and appropriate government service delivery and decision making — be that around community services, healthy lifestyle options, development opportunities, water supply or a whole range of other elements to what help make a good local government even better,” Mr Grace said.
“There has never been a more important time to consider the right of citizens to have access to government information that reflect the current times in which we live where real-time data and swift decision-making are required and expected of governments.
“The Labor candidates are committed to embracing openness and transparency, and all governments must forever relinquish their habitual instinct to control information.
“The old culture of council secrecy has to end and the public’s right to know has to be respected; it must come first,” he added.
Labor’s candidates in the 4 December local government elections are: for mayor, David Grace in Broulee; and as councillors, Maureen Searson in Batehaven, Matthew Findlay in Batemans Bay, Claire McAsh in Moruya, Deirdre Russack in Narooma, and Jack Egan in Rosedale.