Open door decision a victory for democracy

POLITICIANS, whether they be local, state or federal, throw around the word ‘transparency’ like a piece of confetti during election campaigns.
Nanjing Night Net

They realisevoters would like to know more about the inner workings of governing and how decisions about their rates or taxes are determined.

But after election day, realpolitik usually takes over and issues such as reforming freedom of information laws, altering donation rules or opening up meetings disappear down the agenda.

That’s why Albury Council’s decision to allow the public and mediainto its workshops is refreshing.

A 5-4 vote on Monday night saw the council opt to change its draft code of meeting practice which would result in briefings being transparent at most times.

New councillors Amanda Cohn and John Stuchbery told of being shocked to find they were spending three or four hours in workshops compared to an hour at a council monthlymeeting.

But former deputy mayor David Thurley defended the briefings for allowing free and open discussion which ensured councillors were educated about complex matters.

Former mayor Henk van de Ven echoed Cr Thurley’s pointthat no decisions were made behinddoors, but said the sessionshad been valuable inhis 11 years on council.

“We are not in a secret society,” CrGraham Docksey said.

The opponents urged the newcomers to spend more time under the existing system before changing it.

They were also portrayed as being pawns of councillor Darren Cameron, whose “great purpose in life”, according to Cr van de Ven, hadbeen to restrictworkshops.

The arguments for the status quo failed to undermine the principlethat transparency is an aid tointerest, engagement, knowledge and faith in council decision-making.

It will still not be open slather, issues of commercial, security and individual sensitivitywould remain in camera.

If the move is ratified, Albury will likely be the most opencouncil on the Border with monthly, committee and workshop meetings public.

It stands in contrast to Wodonga Council which has been criticised throughout its election campaign by various candidates for a lack of transparency.

We can only hope it might inspire the new Wodonga Council to follow suit and heightenpublic faith in decision-making.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.