Edward Mandla
Dysfunctional Tendering and “Managed Democracy” failing Public Interest through Inappropriate Confidential Classification of Documents – Part 4 Public Art

Published On: 28/07/2014

Lord Mayor, I’ve got some bad news.

Lord Mayor in Wykanak v Rockdale City Council and the Rockdale Council General Manager in 2011, the Land and Environment Court spent a considerable time exploring the ability of a Council to classify documents as confidential.

Justice Bignold confirmed it was irrelevant whether a matter may or may not be confidential as 10B of the Local Government Act requires a public interest test. I argued this to deaf ears last Monday night.

In the words of Justice Bignold "This proviso presents immediate and insurmountable difficulties for the Council's argument because it is clear that the power to close part of the Council's Meeting must be exercised according to a number of important procedural constraints...........and for there to be an explanation why discussion of the matter in an open meeting "would be, on balance, contrary to the public interest".

Three times I asked for a public interest discussion last week and the Lord Mayor, her Councillors, the CEO and our Head of Legal brushed this off in an elitist we know best matter.

However, Justice Bignold went further. She pointed to the speech by The Minister for Local Government in his Second Reading Speech on the Local Government Amendment (Open Meetings) Bill in 1977. The Minister emphasised the importance to public accountability of "(T)he ability of the public and the media to attend council meetings and observe the deliberations and decisions of elected representatives". He also noted the fact "that in too many cases the matters addressed in these closed sessions are not truly confidential, rather, they are controversial".

Sounds a lot like Public Art. There is no way this Public Art was last week, or is tonight, confidential. Yes, it’s highly controversial.

I find it hard to believe this Council is completely ignorant to the Local Government Act and its duties of around openness. Therefore, it must have become apparent in the debate last week that much of this Public Art wasn't confidential at all.

So under the threat of ICAC, Councillors were gagged. The people of Sydney were subjected to “stage managed” democracy, all for the sake of a miserable press release tonight and much needed positive publicity for this struggling administration.

This is unforgivable and it has brought this Chamber into disrepute.

As for the Public Art, I believe the people of Sydney want to see the works of the runners up and even those that came third or fourth.

Australians are laid back and give their politicians lots of rope. By they won’t compromise on one thing – they want choice.

They hate being told what’s best for them by politicians, particularly when they’re having to pick up the tab and in this case, they will have to look at it for however long.

This Council has developed a healthy fear of the public. Whether it’s chopping down their beloved Jacaranda tree, taking parking spots away from their front door or spoiling their parks with over engineered structures, the message is always the same. The City of Sydney’s knows best.

We know how you should best live and now what art you will like.

I can’t imagine a safer pair of hands than the public? That’s why I’m moving an amendment that the public see the finalists in each category of public art and the public choose the winners.

Edward Mandla
July 2014

Share this article:
Keep up to date with Edward's monthly newsletter.

FacebookTwitterLinked In
Help Edward bring the change our city needs.
Get in touch with Edward here
Name *
E-Mail *
Subject *
Message *
© 2020 Edward Mandla
Authorised by John Preston, 33 York Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Site design by Saiman Reddy