The Weekly Advertiser

EDITORIAL: Respect and governance

Dean Lawson Editorial Nov 2017

Sorry developments plaguing a couple of municipal councils in our region during the past year or so have been disappointing.
Downright embarrassing might be a better description.
Some of us who have long covered the drama of local government have never seen, until now, such a high level of personal warfare in council chambers. Not, at least, in our part of the state.
Ararat Rural City Council might have reached the light at the end of its disastrous ride through a tunnel of municipal darkness, but we can’t help fearing Horsham Rural City Council is only halfway through.
Such has been the level of obvious discontent in the Horsham chamber that an uncomfortable air of anxiety hangs over Horsham council meetings – hardly an environment conducive to progressive debate.
A similar cloud hung over Ararat meetings and we can’t help but think that Horsham might follow Ararat’s lead and produce a string of council resignations.
What is going on and why is it that democratic governance systems that have worked effectively since local government came into being are suddenly failing?
The answer might simply be an acceptance that being disrespectful, perhaps the greatest of evils anyone in power might possess, is now okay at the level of government closest to the people.
This is not just about councillors being disrespectful to each other based on differing opinions, personality clashes or seeking retribution for ancient wounds.
It is as much about being disrespectful to democratic institutions, process, procedure and the community in general.
Council chambers, in open debate and controlled by strict meeting procedure, should be a bastion for overall respect and should allow representatives a chance to speak on issues without fear of ridicule, bullying or character assassination.
They should also be where representatives can verbally cop it on the chin as part of organised but fair and friendly debate.
To put your hand up to be a representative of your peers is no small task.
It requires an open and passionate heart as well as generous levels of community knowledge and understanding and a thick skin.
When respect becomes a casualty of governance, governance ultimately fails and none of us are winners.

The entire May 23, 2018 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

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Posted on May 23 2018

Posted by on May 23 2018. Filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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