Huon Valley Guessing Games Sometimes, when facing an impossible challenge, one can be tempted to try just a little too hard. Down here in the Huon, our council — judged in June by Local Government Minister Peter Gutwein’s board of inquiry to be dysfunctional and beyond mediation — appears to have enthusiastically launched into crystal ball-gazing to give us, the public, an insight into the news before it happens.
Found on the HVC website on Monday, August 8, is a “media release” (above) dated 12 August 2016. It tells residents and ratepayers that “Council has provided its first report on the implementation of the Ministerial Directions to the Department of Premier and Cabinet”.
It’s not a release that has been accidentally misdated; it is part of “Item No. 15.035/16” on the agenda of a special meeting of council to be held at 5pm this Thursday (August 11), and is to be found in the attachments to the agenda. It is, in fact, a recommended media release, but its very presence among publicly available council documents tells us that management (which, due to the Local Government Act, calls the shots in all local councils) is anticipating that the special meeting will go exactly according to plan. Also, the proposed release does have the potential to suggest that what we are now watching is a horse (in the form of the mayor) being led to water and expected, by order from on high, to drink.
The proposed media release, following 11 bullet points — listing HVC’s alleged achievements since Gutwein meekly got tough with council in June and threatened, if councillors didn’t get their act together and de-dysfunctionalise themselves, to sack them and appoint a commissioner — ends with a nonsense quote attributed to Mayor Peter Coad. What it says is not even clever spin: The Council is absolutely committed to carrying out these directions to ensure that Council continues to represent the community into the future.
What on earth does that mean? “Continues” suggests that council means to “represent the community into the future” in the dysfunctional way we are told it has been run for we don’t know how long.
Can’t imagine words like those quoted above actually coming out of the mouth that dozens of us in the public gallery have been listening to these past 21 months: Coad, who normally makes reasoned, and good, sense, simply doesn’t talk like that. It reads like more PR bullshit to me.
Yet, on the understanding that the GM makes up the council’s agenda in collaboration with the mayor (as I seem to recall, the Local Government Act lays down), those words should be there with Coad’s approval. That thought has me flummoxed. Would love to see him, or another councilor, suggest that the nonsense be deleted and something a bit more constructive be worked into the media release.
Perhaps, however, they’re just words council management can now put into Coad’s mouth because, presumably, it has been directed by Gutwein, or his Local Government Division, that the mayor has no right to the freedom of speech one would expect of an elected representative of the people; and that Coad is not allowed to say anything that might reflect his opinion rather than that of council as a whole.
So much for democracy in the Huon Valley in the glorious Deep South of Australia’s mythically depicted “clean, green” island state, home of political gobbledegook and alarmingly transparent incompetence.
It’s all too hard to spell out in detail. But, basically, what is happening in Huonville today is that HVC (management and an elected council long dominated by the Heart of the Huon group and its predecessors) — having been given the green light by the Honourable LG Minister to manage its own way out of its own dysfunction and chaos — is going about its job with, in my experience, unparalleled zeal and flourish.
HVC is quite clearly on such a high, it’s now into extreme prescience — even to the extent of approving the news before it happens, at the same time making its mayor look like a puppet leader who utters banal nonsense at the direction of the Minister for Local Government who is presiding over a total shemozzle of his own making.
The crap that is in reams in the documents for the August 11 meeting doesn’t amount to a hill of beans when it comes to the reformation of a council found desperately wanting by a board of inquiry appointed by the LG minister.
All of this would be too corny for words, and totally laughable, if it weren’t for the fact that HVC today is akin to a jail that has been abandoned by its warders, and the inmates ordered to reform themselves. — Bob Hawkins
(The agenda and attachments for the August 11 special meeting can be found at https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0BzULlslhVdqfc25RSGRLWFM3aWM. The attachments may take a long time to download.)
• Ben Lohberger in Comments: So this article is predicated on ridiculing a draft media release, published in the agenda for an upcoming council meeting? The Huon Valley Council is regularly damned by Bob Hawkins for being too secretive, but now he’s damning it for being too transparent. And how strange that the big issue involving the Mayor this week is not even mentioned …
• Bob Hawkins in Comments: Huon Valley residents could witness a kangaroo court in action at tonight’s special meeting of council in Huonville. A report by the general manager, reported on in today’s Mercury (p. 12), accuses the mayor of 15 breaches of the loaded “ministerial directions” that Gutwein issued on June 15 after ignoring the main “sacking” recommendation of the board of inquiry he appointed. New councillor James Lange carries a huge burden tonight: he can vote for democracy and help reject the GM’s recommendations; or he can vote for the status quo, a situation that has burdened the valley for so long with a secretive local government that is still mired in 20th century practices. Whichever way the votes go tonight, it should make it clear to the minister that the time has come for him to pull the plug on this dysfunctional council and put in an administrator. The meeting, conveniently for those who are behind the attempt to stitch up the mayor and eventually get him sacked, starts at 5pm. This makes it difficult for working people to get there on time; it might even make it difficult for two councillors — including Lange — whose votes will be vital to the outcome of the recommendations before the council. Under the LG Act, a tied vote is a lost vote. Only eight councillors are expected to be in attendance tonight, Lydia Eastley being on maternity leave.
• Trish Kyne in Comments: Dates produced by council management are not proof that Mayor Coad has breached the minister’s (Gutwein) directive 3, as asserted in the Mercury today. Under the LGA mayors are obliged to ‘Act as a leader of the community in the local municipality’, e.g. comments on the recent floods are expected. It is interesting that no-one else appears on the list of breaches for Directive 3. There have been many comments to the media, both print and radio, from other councillors. Biased reporting? What’s new? However, having placed these charges on the HVC website, accessible to the general public, the assertions are defamatory. The article in the Mercury demonstrated how accessible the information was. At tonight’s (Thurs) meeting Mayor Coad had newspaper copies of a letter to the editor of the Mercury from one of the valley residents. The letter was one of the listed dates the council attributed to the mayor. Another related to comments following the recent flood. The mayor abstained from the vote regarding the proposed motion as it could prejudice his position should he sue the council.