The Quest is back.
In July last year I began a Quest to visit every local government council meeting in the Perth metro area.
The Quest was interrupted with the October elections and councils went into caretaker mode so there was nothing much to observe.
I noticed that once the new councillors were in place, the meetings were very tame as allowances were made for the new councillors as they “learned the ropes”. Then Christmas and new year ……
Now that the new year is well and truly in full swing, I am picking up the Quest where I left off but this week I happen to be in Busselton so I have taken the opportunity to visit the city’s OCM.
Busselton held an agenda briefing immediately before the Ordinary Council Meeting opened at 5.30pm.
The Mayor, Cr Grant Henley opened the meeting without fuss or fanfare. He did an acknowledgement of country and then did something I have not seen at any other council (yet) – he asked a member of the community to offer a prayer. Some councils have a prayer, others don’t but having a community member offer the prayer was certainly a nice touch in my opinion.
All but one councillor were present but one was (unusually) unable to connect by Zoom. The meeting was live streamed.
A controversial issue was discussed as a result of a recent electors meeting – the issue of Covid mandates. The issue attracted a larger than usual number of people in the public gallery (about 40), around 20 of which left once the Covid issue was discussed. The Covid mandate issue was lost 7 votes to one.
I normally do not record the gender split but I was specifically asked about Busselton. There were 3 males and 5 females present.
The Mayor was effective, polite, respectful and efficient. Twice, he had to deal with an interruption from the public gallery. He dealt with them quickly and assertively. The Mayor was not a ball of energy but he was business like and moved through the agenda very efficiently.
Busselton’s Standing Orders allow for a time limit of 5 minutes with an extension to 10 at the discretion of the presiding member. The Mayor was very generous with one councillor but I think, “read” the meeting appropriately and allowed a longer speech.
Like many councils, the minutes were on a screen for the public to see. Unfortunately, like some other councils, the text was way too small to be able to be read from the gallery.
Voting was by show of hands and was done very quickly. A practice many councils could and should adopt.
The speaking count: One councillor spoke 7 times, through to one who did not speak.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Busselton was in chatting with the Mayor after the meeting. This meeting ran for 63 minutes but Mayor Henley told me that his record was 62 seconds – he timed it. He said everything was decided en bloc and it was done and dusted.
Some may think that is ridiculous. Mayor Henley, I suspect, would not agree. Even 62 minutes is unimaginable in some councils.
The Quest continues.