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Byron Shire
May 18, 2021

Ask no questions

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Fast Buck$, Coorabell

Only a few weeks ago I had to admit to myself that Simon Richardson has a warm, gentle and solicitous side to his nature that comes out especially when he has to deal with an aged or infirm person during public access.

Then someone suggested to me that Simon is only considerate to anyone who seeks favour, i.e. who is a supplicant playing to his status. That’s probably a bit unfair, but really the key test of character is what one decides to do when the chips are down.

And lately Simon is becoming more petty in response to his critics.

It’s long been a complaint of mine that Council staff deliberately avoid answering questions put to them and instead deliver a response that at first glance appears to address the issue, but in fact answers a question that I did not ask.

In response to this I sometimes broke down my next question into specific elements to make it more difficult to avoid the issue. Simon’s response then was to complain my question actually consisted of multiple questions!

At the last council meeting I asked this question: Do councillors Lyon, Ndaiye and Richardson intend to nominate for Mayor next year, if so, will they nominate as independents, rather than Greens?

According to Simon, this is actually two questions; so he elected to answer only the first part. I suppose next he’ll be claiming that asking two questions of three councillors amounts to six questions. I probably shouldn’t have put the idea in his head.

Now the code of meeting practice says that a person or an organisation may address one item per agenda. This used to be two, but Simon recently pulled the trick of citing the code not via public debate but by exploiting the low-profile anonymity of the committee system such that the change went through un-noticed. He pulled the same trick a few years ago when he banned public questions, not for open debate, but by exploiting the committee system so that the change went through unmarked by the public. No doubt it was because my questions were seen to be undermining the good governance of the Shire.

It never seems to have occurred to simple Simon that those who hate questions have something to hide. A point the Australian print media have been hammering the last couple of weeks in the face of government secrecy. From my point of view, every question that Simon or the senior staff deliberately failed to answer indicates my question has hit the mark.

At the last council meeting, Simon ruled that one person can only ask one question at a meeting, regardless of whether the person is talking as a person or on behalf of an organisation. This is not in line with meeting practices, and is indeed legally incorrect. Council’s lawyer, Ralph James was asked by a councillor about the rights and wrongs of the approach; looking suitably shamefaced, Ralph skillfully avoided clarifying the matter, implying that as long as Council followed the correct procedures it couldn’t be faulted. No way was Ralph going to undermine Simon Richardson, the right-wing’s greatest asset – if he only knew it. During one exchange I accused a councillor of ‘fudging’ his response so Simon jumped up and alleged that there has been at ‘breach of the code of conduct’. I assume that Simon misheard the word ‘fudged,’ but that doesn’t excuse his ignorance: I am not an elected councillor and I am therefore not bound by any silly code of fake niceness.

Besides, Simon himself is increasingly in breach; before every meeting he preaches about being ‘respectful’, yet increasingly he leans towards councillor Cameron and exchanges some whispered hilarious snigger at the expense of myself or Jan Barham.

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  1. Hmmm. The word “transparency” comes to mind. Followed by the words “Rose Wanchap”.

    And what of BSC values? “We are open, honest and respectful” hmmm.


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