The Sunshine Coast Council have excessively used the provisions in the Local Government Act which indicate a local government or committee ‘may resolve’ that a meeting be closed to the public. This is not compulsory. An example is the reappointment of the Council CEO. Noosa Council chose to discuss this matter in a public meeting, while Sunshine Coast Regional Council chose to discuss this matter in a closed meeting. Decisions to hold a closed meeting are optional not mandatory.
An additional problem is there is no separation of agenda items when it is voted to hold a closed meeting. Overly utilising closed sessions leaves residents and businesses uninformed. I will advocate for:
- Rationale for requesting a closed meeting to be discussed and voted on in public for each separate item.
- Separating agenda items so only those items that require closed meetings are subjected to privacy and the remainder are discussed publicly.
- During closed meetings, each item should identify how long information is to remain confidential and when the information will be released to the public e.g. at the conclusion of a tender process. This will ensure RTI requests are less of a burden to the community and relieve council staff of administering so many of these requests.
- Live streaming and publishing of recordings of meetings to enable residents and businesses to remain informed of council projects and direction. This allows the community to view meetings in their own time and at their own convenience.
Opening all meetings to the public with the use of technology reduces the barriers to attend, will keep the community informed, allows for adequate opportunity to ask questions, and enables the provision of feedback to council about issues and projects on the Sunshine Coast.