Yarra City Council cops a never-ending barrage of criticism for what is seen as attacks on freedom of speech.
Yes, there could be some validity to those assertions, but the lengths to which the council goes to ensure ratepayer input and the ability to ask questions at public meetings also must be taken into consideration.
Governance laws covering all councils has required changes to embrace revised local government regulations in 2020. Yarra City is no different. To assist the flow of lengthy meetings, the council decided to limit questions from the public from five to three minutes, among other measures.
However, a reduction in rhetorical flourishes to ensure concise questioning does not amount to censorship. No other Melbourne council that has adopted changes allows more than three minutes for public questions, if it allows them at all.
Recently, question time has been hijacked by a philibuster-style succession of speakers on one issue - opposition to the removal of the Alphington Grammar School gate to allow pedestrian access to public land.
The council must reserve the right to conduct orderly meetings in a timely and efficient manner. It also must allow members of the public to air their views. Common sense by the chair can ensure both objectives are achieved.