Melbourne City Council and the State Government called on to ensure the right of readily available access to public documents via the internet as part of their commitment to honest, open and transparent government.
The Victorian Local Government Regulations, made pursuant to the Victorian Local Government Act, requires a Municipal Council to make available certain information to the public.
The Victorian Parliament in assenting to these regulations recognised the importance of the public's right to know and that certain information must be maintained by a Municipal Council and open to public inspection.
These regulations were first drafted when the Internet was in its infancy and not widely deployed. The Internet today has become an important, cost effective and efficient means of communication.
The Local Government Act and the Local Government Regulations have not been updated to take into consideration new internet technology and as such there is no compulsion or requirement for a Municipal Council to publish and make available public documents and information on the Municipal Council's Internet site.
At the same time there is nothing other then good will and intent preventing a Municipal Council from publishing this information on the Internet making it readily available and accessible by the public.
The only reason that this information is not published on the Internet site is the Council administration's desire to limit the availability and access to information and by doing so avoid accountability.
The City of Melbourne reluctent attitude and refusal of ongoing requests that public information , required under the terms of the Local Government Act to be readily available and accessible to the public, be published on it's internet site demonstrates the Council's inability and unwillingness to self-govern or to act in the public's interest.
Under the management of David Pitchard, CEO, and Alison Lyon's, Legal Governance Officer, the City Council administration have gone to extra-ordinary efforts to prevent readily available public access to this information.
Publication of the Council's Travel register is required to be maintained under clause 21(c) of the Victorian Government Regulations and following numerous request and submission by the public to the elected Council this information was published and made available via the Council's Internet site in 2004.
The information published provided details of Councillor and Staff Overseas and interstate Travel.
The Council administration were so opposed to this information being readily available to the public that they withdraw it's publication on the internet previously soon after the election of the new Council in 2005 without the authority or consent of the elected Councillors.
The elected Council under the leadership of the Lord Mayor, John So, and his Deputy Lord Mayor, Garry Singer, continue to avoid the responsibility and obligations to protect the public's right of access to information by failing to hold the Council administration to account and request that the publication of this information be maintained and accessible via the Council's Internet site.
If the City Council cannot self-govern or act in then public's interest then it is incumbent on the State Parliament to review the regulations to ensure that the right of access to this information is readily available to the public by making it mandatory for all public documents to be published on the Council's Internet site.
- Extract of Part 8 of the Local Government Act -
Victorian Local Government Regulations 2001
PART 8—INFORMATION TO BE MADE AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC
21. Documents to be made available for public inspection
A Council must make available for public inspection documents containing the following prescribed matters—
(a) details of current allowances fixed for the Mayor, Lord Mayor (if any) and Councillorsunder section 74 or 74A of the Act;
(b) details of senior officers' total salarypackages for the current financial year andthe previous year including the gross salary,the amount of the Council or employercontribution to superannuation, the value ofany motor vehicle provided by the Counciland the total value of any other benefits andallowances provided by the Council;
(c) details of overseas or interstate travel (withthe exception of interstate travel by land forless than 3 days) undertaken in an officialcapacity by Councillors or any member ofCouncil staff in the previous12 months, including the names of theCouncillors or members of Council staff andthe date, destination, purpose and total costof the overseas or interstate travel;
(d) names of Council officers who were requiredto submit a return of interest during thefinancial year and the dates the returns weresubmitted;
(e) names of Councillors who submitted returnsof interest during the financial year and thedates the returns were submitted;
(f) agendas for and minutes of ordinary andspecial meetings held in the previous12 months kept under section 93 of the Actexcept if the minutes relate to parts ofmeetings which have been closed tomembers of the public under section 89 ofthe Act;
(g) a list of all special committees established byCouncil and the purpose for which eachcommittee was established;
(h) a list of all special committees established bythe Council which were abolished or ceasedto function during the financial year;
(i) minutes of meetings of special committeesestablished under section 86 of the Act andheld in the previous 12 months except if theminutes relate to parts of meetings whichhave been closed to members of the publicunder section 89 of the Act;
(j) applications for enrolment on the voters' rollunder sections 12 and 13 of the Act for theimmediate past roll and the next roll beingprepared;
(k) a register of delegations kept under sections87, 88 and 98 of the Act;
(l) submissions received in accordance withsection 223 of the Act during the previous12 months;
(m) agreements to establish regional librariesunder section 196 of the Act;
(n) details of all property, finance and operatingleases involving land, buildings, plant,computer equipment or vehicles entered intoby the Council as lessor or lessee, includingthe name of the other party to the lease andthe terms and the value of the lease;
(o) a register of authorised officers appointedunder section 224 of the Act;
(p) a list of donations and grants made by theCouncil during the financial year, includingthe names of persons or bodies which havereceived a donation or grant and the amountof each donation or grant;
(q) a list of the names of the organisations ofwhich the Council was a member during thefinancial year and details of all membershipfees and other amounts and servicesprovided during that year to eachorganisation by the Council;
(r) a list of contracts valued at $100 000 or morewhich the Council entered into during thefinancial year without first engaging in acompetitive process and which are notcontracts referred to in section 186(5) of theAct.