Newspaper article The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Australia)

The Mayor Says Officers Acted without Approval

Newspaper article The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Australia)

The Mayor Says Officers Acted without Approval

Article excerpt

Byline: Adrian Taylor adrian.taylor@capnews.com.au

OFFICERS acted without the knowledge or approval of Mayor Brad Carter and other councillors when they took it upon themselves to restrict public access to council documents.

There was a breakdown in communications, Cr Carter said yesterday, reiterating his commitment to transparency.

But he admits he faces a tough battle to protect the public's right to know against new state legislation which could result in important decisions being taken in private or without important details being made available to the media and other interested parties.

Cr Carter expressed his concerns yesterday and said he wanted the council's decisions and procedures to be as transparent as possible, despite the Information Privacy Act provisions which came into play this month.

Council officers prefer a strict interpretation of the regulations, which are designed to protect the identity of individuals and carry a maximum penalty of $100,000 for breaches.

It could mean in future the names of people making planning applications, as well as those who have raised objections, would be censored.

The Mayor said he was seeking advice from the Local Government Association Queensland in terms of appropriate levels of disclosure of information associated with council meetings.

Without a council debate, officers decided that, to comply with the regulations, they would stop publishing council agendas, reports and recommendations on the Rockhampton Regional Council website prior to the relevant meetings.

Cr Carter said agendas should be available for the media and public and took the unusual step of making a statement during the full council meeting. He made it clear officers had acted without authority of councillors who had not discussed the issue.

"This council wants to be transparent and has a desire to engage with the community," he said, adding he preferred the agendas be available on the website until councillors had debated the legislation and how they wanted to react to it. …

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