Mayor rolled on bid to close briefings

Sophia ConstantineNorth West Telegraph
Town of Port Hedland elected members.
Camera IconTown of Port Hedland elected members. Credit: Taylar Amonini

A lively discussion broke out between the mayor and elected councillors at the Town of Port Hedland over whether to keep agenda briefing meetings open to the public.

Public agenda meetings are designed to allow elected members and the public to ask questions on agenda items before the ordinary council meeting.

Officers had recommended in the agenda for the first meeting of councillors since the election late last month that the meetings happen behind closed doors.

However, Cr George Daccache said the meetings were important to the public and instead proposed the meetings only be held behind closed doors as required.

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Mayor Camilo Blanco said the briefings were a “waste of time” because “the public don’t show up”.

“There could be disagreements out there and that’s just fine. But I haven’t seen those people disagree,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for councillors to have better, robust discussions about the issues in the agenda. We’ve been able to discuss these issues without standing orders and the rules associated with having the public watching us.”

Cr Daccache hit back at Mr Blanco’s comments, stating he was “shocked” that Mr Blanco was “afraid of the public coming to the meetings and having a say”.

Cr Richard Whitwell said keeping the meetings private was only appropriate when a confidential matter was at stake.

“To have the idea that we have to shield ourselves from the public so that we can have a talk is crazy,” he said.

Cr Telona Pitt said she was “all for keeping the briefings open”.

“How can we represent the community if we’re not allowing them to engage with us,” she said. Cr Julie Arif agreed the public must have the opportunity to ask questions if they wish.

“To stop the opportunity for the public to ask the question is just not right,” she said.

Councillors voted for Cr Deccache’s alternative wording for the recommendations 8-1. The meetings will continue to be held in public unless deemed they must be held in confidence.

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