City of Melville ticks off on new public question time policy despite concerns

City of Melville.
City of Melville.

THE City of Melville has adopted a new policy dealing with public question time at its council meetings, despite concerns that it is restrictive.

The policy was approved at Tuesday’scouncil meeting and will see questioners limited to two questions at a time, while questions with multiple parts considered as separate questions.

It was stated during the briefing session on November 27 that if time allowed, people would be allowed to ask further questions.

Public time will be limited to a maximum of 30 minutes at each meeting, although five-minute increments will be allowed through a resolution from the council.

A deputation from City of Melville Ratepayers and Residents Association members Mark McLerie and Steven Wallace called on the City to defer the policy and labelled it “restrictive.”

A deferral motion from councillor Nicholas Pazolli was lost five votes to seven but this was just the first of many amendments from councillors to change the policy.

Councillor Tim Barling’s amendment that questions on notice be provided in written form via email to elected members was approved seven votes to five.

A motion from councillor Matthew Woodall to add that questions would not be responded to when the answer has not changed to a previous question and that no distinction would be made between questions that are operational or strategic were carried.

His amendment that the City would answer to the best of its ability was not approved, after Mayor Aubrey used his casting vote when the voting was locked up at six votes for and against.

An amendment from Cr Pazolli to simplify a sentence that states ‘questioners who do not abide by a ruling of the Mayor or where a member of the public behaves in a disrespectful manner to the presiding member, council or the committee may be ruled out of order and the question would not be recorded in the minutes’, was voted down.

Cr Pazolli wanted the sentence to read: ‘questions that do not comply with the policy would be ruled out of order and the question would not be recorded in the minutes’.

Cr Woodall moved an amendment to the sentence so it would read that questions from members of the public that did not comply with the policy, the City’s Meeting Procedure Local Law 2017 or the Local Government Act 1995 and Regulations would not be recorded in the minutes, with the motion being passed eight votes to five.

The substantive motion was finally voted on and was narrowly passed seven votes to five.

As part of the motion, questions will need to be submitted to the council by 2pm on the Wednesday prior the meeting, or three clear business days before the meeting.

Questions that are submitted after this time will only be responded to if the information is readily available, otherwise it will be taken on notice.

Items relating to the review of the H4 area of the Canning Bridge Activity Centre and the audio recordings of meetings were deferred to a February elected members information session.