BY ANDREW WOODHOUSE
Sydney City Council should start revealing itself. There – I’ve blown a new thought bubble. I want live streaming of council meetings via its own TV channel. When do I want it? Now! More exposure is a frightening thought in many ways, but is necessary for four reasons:
1. It will reveal the truth. I know this is a novel concept. But it will show how the cogs, sprockets, chains and pulleys of democracy work to affect our neighbourhoods;
2. It will expose how council is callow. It will shine a halogen torch into its dark, musty, cobwebbed recesses to see if council really is, “open, honest, transparent and connected”;
3. It will drag our council into the 20th century and then further drag it into the 21st century, and;
4. Think how beautiful it would be to sit down at night, watch the news, check on the latest church Royal Commission scandal or drug haul arrest after a long day’s work and then flick over to channel SydC and see what’s happening at town hall between 5pm and midnight. View DA decision-making live and see how new policies are decided in our favour. Check out what the pollies are posing and postulating about. By-pass fake news and see it live, all without lifting more than the remote.
No more accumulating background papers. No more leaving my lounge-room cocoon in the wet and dark, waiting for transport and sitting for up to five hours listening to tendentious twaddle to make a two-minute submission.
Yes, this is what we want, what we deserve and what we’re waiting for.
I am not Dr Martin Luther King Jr, but I’ve had a dream. I’ve seen the television lights and live streaming of council meetings and decisions cascading down upon us like the waters of Babylon, through every hill and valley of righteousness, refreshing our city and souls with beauty, pleasure and delight.
Then I wake up.
I remember this is not a novel idea, it’s all been promised before.
Former Councillor and an Honorary Life Member of the Australian Computer Society, Edward Mandla, who actually knows about this high-tech, gadget, widget-driven new world order, sees no technical issues. Neither do I, and I was born BC, that is, Before Computers.
Mr Mandla says, “Webcasting allows people who cannot physically attend Council meetings to follow proceedings and it promotes open transparency and democracy.”
True. After all, aren’t we meant to be “globally connected?”
He drove a council resolution to work towards streaming committee and council proceedings, all via the Internet. Two subsequent questions on notice were placed and responded to with reassuring utterances that the matter was being dealt with, but it was clear the city was stalling. In July 2014, he introduced a motion to have council meetings webcast within 60 days. So Clover Moore moved a recession motion to block webcasting using her casting vote.
After three years, the result so far is nothing but a state of stasis. Z-I-L-C-H.
Councillor Craig Chung, also familiar with the phrase “business acumen”, said live streaming boosts confidence in council’s and shows ratepayers “how the sausage is made,” encouraging wider democratic participation. He thinks too many decisions appear to be made in Clover Moore’s office.
Mr Chung suggests if people really saw how decisions are made they’d be appalled. He said Ms Moore doesn’t want people involved, she wants her subjects to come before her genuflecting at her throne.
“People are busy at 2pm on Mondays at work, running a small business, dealing with family.
“Other global cities such as New York, London, Los Angeles and New Orleans all have live streaming, as does every Australian state government,” Mr Chung said.
I agree: council’s closed door approach is so last century and passé.
Ms Moore cites cost and privacy as concerns, but let’s face it, we’re under constant CCTV surveillance almost everywhere now. Seeing me yawning in the background is not going to worry me, although viewers may be amused.
She also claims, spuriously, there is no community support for this piece of pro-democracy. However, I have never even been asked. So I’m asking you this: many other local councils enjoy broadcasts, so why can’t we?
Let’s face it, council is the best free show, or is that opera, in town. My new council TV channel concept could even win a “Best Local Drama” Logie and attract big fee-paying ads, a real money-spinner. More lights, camera, action!
Andrew Woodhouse is President of the Potts Point and Kings Cross Heritage and Residents’ Society.