Port Stephens Council's code policy review

Cr Giacomo Arnott
Cr Giacomo Arnott

A Port Stephens councillor who has accused his council colleagues of "showing a complete disregard for the public's right to know" has been accused by Mayor Ryan Palmer of "throwing his toys out of the cot when things don't go his way".

Cr Giacomo Arnott found himself friendless among his fellow councillors when he failed at the last meeting of council to receive a seconder to a raft of proposed changes to the Code of Meeting Practice policy review.

As a result, Cr Arnott has accused the councillors of effectively shutting down any debate on policy such as "ensuring that every single vote is recorded in the minutes".

Mayor Ryan Palmer has defended the council, saying there has never been a more transparent or open council with all possible meetings webcast and more community consultation and involvement then ever before.

"Cr Arnott's proposed changes to the code, when the document with hundreds of subsections had been on exhibition for 28 days, seemed to show a lack of respect for council or a lack of any relationship to discuss the ideas he may have had," Mayor Palmer said.

"Cr Arnott's continued failure to adhere to the adopted code of conduct and code of meeting practice when things don't go his way is a real concern to me."

Cr Arnott has described his proposed changes as "commonsense", and "to not even be debated or voted on shows a complete lack of respect for decent, cost-neutral, transparency-enhancing ideas, and a disregard for the public's right to know what goes on in the council chamber".

"Ensuring that a record of every single vote is maintained would seem like commonsense. Similarly, an attempt to extend speaking time for councillors from five to 10 minutes on financial reports was met with silence.

"A member of the board of a public, billion-dollar organisation, only having five minutes to make comments and ask questions about financial reports is a farce. I will continue to hold this council to account in every way possible."

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Another of Cr Arnott's proposals which failed to incite debate was his attempt to have the 'Acknowledgement of Worimi people' placed ahead of the prayer.

The code was placed on public exhibition for 28 days starting on March 21, with the Tomaree Residents and Ratepayers Association lodging the lone submission.

"I was appalled by the decision of our councillors who were not even prepared to second [Cr Arnott's] motion to allow debate on the matter," TRRA president Geoff Washington said.

"The amendments proposed would have made a welcome increase in the community's and ratepayers' awareness of the performance of their elected representatives. At the least ratepayers should be made aware of councillors' voting on every issue.

"We believe the actions of the majority of councillors are entirely inconsistent with their promises of increased transparency and accountability in their campaign for the last council election."

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