Home' South Gippsland Sentinel-Times : February 14, 2017 Edition Contents THE SOUTH GIPPSLAND SENTINEL-TIMES, TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2017 - PAGE 15
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PRESIDENT of the Bass Coast Ratepayers and
Residents Association, Kevin Griffin, has wasted
no time in ensuring that the newly elected council
is as open and transparent as possible.
Mr Griffin said the previous council was known
for its confidential and secretive decision making
At a council meeting held on Wednesday, Febru-
ary 8, Mr Griffin made a submission asking for
increased transparency from the new councillors.
“I would like to ask councillors if they share our
association’s view on transparency, and what they
might do to increase transparency, and how BCRRA
might engage with the council to assist in bringing
about complete transparency,” Mr Griffin said.
A 2016 Victorian Ombudsman investigation into
the transparency of local government decision
making was the catalyst for the ratepayers asso-
ciation’s request to the council.
“As the Ombudsman states in the report, ‘secre-
cy breeds suspicion’. Secrecy in government can
create conditions in which improper conduct and
poor administration can flourish,” Mr Griffin said.
“It also fuels suspicions of wrongdoing and
erodes community trust.”
In December 2016, Victorian Ombudsman Deb-
orah Glass presented to the state parliament her
investigation, which considered council actions
that ensure decision making is transparent and
Mr Griffin cited the previous council’s decision
to close the Wonthaggi Visitor Information Centre
behind closed doors as an example of what not to
do in the future.
“Councillors will recall the community anger
that was created by that decision, and the adverse
impact it had on the community’s trust in council,”
Mr Griffin said.
“Our association notes that, in the very brief pe-
riod since being elected and prior to the release
of the Ombudsman’s investigation, this new Bass
Coast Council has already made improvements to
“Nonetheless the Ombudsman’s investigation re-
sults show areas where Bass Coast Shire Council
could make improvements in order to be among
the best Victorian councils when it comes to trans-
parency in decision making.”
Mr Griffin said that while he had no doubt the
current council is more dedicated than the previous
to ensuring transparency, he asked that councillors
consciously work towards being open and honest.
“Our current council is comprised of a strong as-
sortment of fiscally responsible individuals, some
of whom have very high level finance and business
qualifications and the experience necessary to
properly manage the current executive and admin-
istration team of our shire,” Mr Griffin said.
“But what about in four years’ time or further
into the future? Our community might end up
with well-intentioned amateurs elected to council.
Taking measures to open up transparency during
your term will serve our community now, and into
“It is our hope that with big thinking and a firm
resolve, Bass Coast Shire Council could lead Vic-
toria in providing a model of completely open and
transparent governance,” Mr Griffin said.
Mayor Pamela Rothfield said the council has
been actively discussing ways in which to increase
the openness of council decision making.
“Until now, Local Government Act 1989 Part 4
Section 89 has been broadly interpreted and this
council is in discussions about setting some guide-
“We may resolve a meeting to be closed, but it’s
got a broad application – it’s more of a suggestion
opposed to a legislative duty.
“We need to discuss it and tighten it with
a view to become much more transparent,”
Cr Rothfield said.
A BILL to protect CFA volunteers was intro-
duced in the Legislative Council last week when
the Liberal Nationals moved an amendment to the
Country Fire Authority Act 1958.
It aims to counter clauses in the proposed work-
place agreement between the State Government
and CFA that would hand control of the CFA to the
United Firefighters’ Union.
Melina Bath, a member of the upper house Plan-
ning and Environment Committee conducting the
Inquiry into Fire Season Preparedness, has heard
from volunteers across Victoria who are calling for
parts of the Labor Government’s proposed new
workplace agreement to be scrapped.
“Premier Daniel Andrews is failing volunteer
firefighters, trying to let the United Firefighters’
Union take over the CFA – but the Liberal Nation-
als will not stand for that,” Ms Bath said.
“The Liberal Nationals’ Bill will protect the role
of volunteers and ensure they can continue to pro-
vide the vital, and often life-saving, services for our
communities,” Ms Bath said.
“It will protect members like Brian Brewer, a vol-
unteer with 35 years’ service, from the Warragul
CFA Brigade, who I met during the Inquiry.
“Brian told me that Victoria will be much worse
off when it comes to fire preparedness if we do not
recognise and protect volunteer roles.”
Many CFA members, including Dumbalk CFA
Brigade Strike Team Leader, Rob Auchterlonie,
have continued to voice their concerns over the
government’s proposed workplace agreement.
“It is imperative the CFA Act and Volunteer Char-
ter are honoured and not over-ridden by backdoor
arrangements,” Mr Auchterlonie said.
The Bill will amend the Country Fire Authority
Act 1958 to:
• Recognise the CFA as a volunteer-based or-
• Recognise the authority’s requirement to have
regard to the Volunteer Charter and the principles
and commitment contained therein;
• Restrict the authority entering any deed, agree-
ment or arrangement that may adversely affect vol-
unteers and or avoid the application of any Com-
monwealth or Victorian law.
“The Bill also aims to strengthen the Volunteer
Charter signed by the then Liberal Nationals Gov-
ernment in 2011 that the current Labor Government
has since allowed to be weakened,” Ms Bath said.
“The Liberal Nationals will continue to work to
protect our 57,000 hardworking volunteers who
give up their time and risk their lives to protect the
lives and property of millions of Victorians.”
Council told ‘secrecy
Bill introduced to protect CFA volunteers
Eastern Victoria MP Melina Bath, centre, with Rob Auchterlonie and Janet Auchterlonie
from the Dumbalk Fire Brigade.
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