Port Stephens Council votes to reintroduce webcast of fortnightly council meetings

FILE PHOTO
FILE PHOTO

Port Stephens Council will reinstate webcasts of its fortnightly meetings amid concerns individual councillors might be sued for defamation. 

During the debate Cr Ken Jordan said he would prefer not to be filmed in the event it was reinstated.

“I don’t want to take the risk and burden my family by getting sued,” he said.

“There’s going to be groups out there endlessly going over every word we say.” 

Prior to the election there was widespread support among candidates who wished to see the cameras come back on in the name of transparency and convenience for those residents who could not attend the fortnightly meetings.

In just the second meeting of the new term the new mayor Ryan Palmer and Cr John Nell moved that the general manager Wayne Wallis “initiate the necessary processes to reinstate and reinstall the webcam system”.

“For me its more about the people being involved in the process,” Cr Palmer said.

“I do understand these concerns.”

But he left the door ajar if problems should arise.

“I think it’s a great thing for the community but as with anything it will be open to review.”

Cr Giacomo Arnott said he had nothing to hide from.

“My fear is if we stop this people will think we have something to hide,” he said.

“If you’re worried about saying something on camera then maybe you shouldn’t say it at all.”

Cr Steve Tucker said councillors were protected to a degree if not to the extent of state and federal politicians who had parliamentary privilege.   

“Qualified interest does allow us to speak freely as long as it’s with good intent, not malice,” he said.

Cr Jaimie Abbott also backed it.

“I think people will be more engaged in council matters.”

Cr Chris Doohan noted it would cost $390 per meeting, after the estimated $2500 start-up cost.

With a heavy patch on a road valued at $250 he said the money could fix 350 pot holes in a year.

“I can tell you this with certainty: People don’t want to see us here on camera when they can see our faces often enough in the papers.”

The motion was no sooner carried when Cr Jordan did interrupt the meeting with “matters arising”.

Cr Jordan wished to know on what legal grounds the council might have to film and broadcast him, if he did not consent.

“I ask that the general manager seek legal advice on my being filmed,” he said.

Mr Wallis said this was not feasible.

“Unfortunately council cannot obtain legal advice on your behalf, you will need to seek your own legal advice,” he said.

No date has been set for webcast’s reintroduction.