Folks, this is a first: we have an Australian city councilor–and a good one at that! Christine Forster is a Liberal Party councilor who also ran for Lord Mayor (which is Australian for “mayor”) last year. We got outraged at what I was seeing–or not seeing–in her council meetings.
Q: Where I am, it is Sunday. But where you are, it is Monday. So you are IN THE FUTURE! I think it would be fun if you told the audience what I am going to say next. I’ll put my fingers in my ears.
A: Well I’m pretty sure you’re going to ask me how the City of Sydney council operates.
Q: [Taking fingers out of ears] Okay, great. I want to start by talking about your dog. I know you’re a big animal lover and–wait a minute. I bet that’s EXACTLY what you thought I’d say. Nice try! Let’s talk instead about your council meetings. I could not find a scrap of video footage anywhere. What’s going on? Did a dingo eat your cameras?
A: [Laughs] It wasn’t a dingo and it wasn’t even my pug, Audrey Pugburn! It’s a sad fact that unfortunately there is no video or audio record because our Lord Mayor–she’s been in charge of the show since 2004–resolutely refuses to broadcast or televise our meetings. It has been something I’ve been pushing for several years now. But the Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, is intransigent.
Q: In July 2014, the council decides to do the live streaming. That passes on a 5-4 vote. What happened next?
A: It passed on a 5-4 vote because the Lord Mayor’s numbers were down. Somebody was away on sick leave. The motion was rescinded at the next meeting by the Lord Mayor when she had the numbers again.
Q: How long have the debates been on this and what was the tone?
A: There was no debate, really. As soon as the new council was [sworn in for 2016], I spoke very robustly in favor of it. And the Lord Mayor and her team simply voted it down.
Q: This is frustrating to me. Clearly it’s frustrating to you because you’re living through it. Are regular people as angry about this as you are?
A: People want this. There are councils around the world that have been doing this since the 1980s. It’s beyond frustrating, frankly. I have no problem with anyone photographing or recording anything I say or do. I’m happy to open myself to that level of scrutiny.
Q: I did contact the Lord Mayor’s office and asked for an answer about why she refuses to allow the rest of us to see what’s happening. I received no response. Quite frankly, I am outraged that Clover Moore thinks the people’s business should be done on HER terms. However, being fair here, can you think of any time that you or your fellow councilors used a meeting to grandstand, take a shot at the mayor, or create a distraction?
A: Absolutely not. This is not about us trying to score political points. This is an administration that will countenance no variation, no opposition, that is entirely about control.
Q: Couldn’t you hold up your cell phone and Facebook Live stream it?
A: It might well end up that somebody does that. It won’t be me!
Follow Councilor Christine Forster on Twitter: @resourcefultype