Controversial Council meeting 24th of February 2016.

Council meeting 24th of February 2016.

Councillor Peter Harle JP

Peter Harle JP

The Meeting started normally although the public gallery appeared to have an unusually large number of people unrelated to the Union Members present. Their attendance became apparent when the Urgency Motion was put during a personal attack on Liberal Councillor Peter Ristevski accusing him of racial bias, bigotry and religious bias. (An organised setup?)
When the Councillor attempted to defend himself by calling a point of order, also supported by several Councillors, the Mayor ruled against them. Councillor Ristevski then put forward an Urgency Motion which effectively prevented further speakers on the same subject.
The Mayor ruled that the Urgency Motion did not comply with his interpretation of the Local Government Regulations (s10). After much verbal diatribe the Mayor attempted to expel the Councillor. A motion of dissent was called, which the Mayor also ruled out of order (illegally?). Councillor Ristevski persisted with the Urgency Motion and the Motion of Dissent despite requests by the Mayor for additional but unnecessary highly confidential information. That information should and would have been provided during the closed to the public “Confidential session” of the proposed “Urgency Motion”. The Councillors insistence to have the motion dealt with prompted the Mayor to order security staff to escort the Councillor outside the chambers. That in my view was undemocratic, authoritarian and illegal.

To counteract the impasse and restore confidence and transparency to the meeting, I suggested a compromise which stated that:

“The meeting Continue with the public speakers and at their conclusion the Mayor voluntarily vacate the Chair and allow a Council nominated Councillor to take his place for the duration of the Urgency Motion.”

The Mayor refused to accept that compromise and insisted that the Councillor apologises for his refusal to leave and unrelated trivial matters. When that failed, he ordered security staff to remove the Councillor. That in my view was undemocratic, dictatorial and illegal leaving me no choice other than to vacate the Council Chamber together with six like-minded Councillors. It should be noted, that while the Mayor is standing as he did, Councillors cannot speak or interject, their only recourse is to leave the Chamber.
I was also conscious of the fact that if I remained in the meeting (as the only Independent Councillor) it would have no significant impact on the Meeting. Six Councillors are needed for a Quorum, (half of 11 plus one).

While exiting the chambers intimidating threats were made to me and several Councillors by some members of the audience. (Shades of Auburn City Council?) However, the Union Members of the audience were most supportive, they and security staff ensured that the seven Councillors were escorted to their vehicles.

To clarify, several speakers spoke in relation to Rezoning matters before Council and a Traffic related proposal.
After they had spoken, the first speaker to speak on the matter of Halal food (listed under Questions With Notice) triggered the Urgency Motion. While the speakers’ points of view may be trivial to some, it is also unfortunate that the Public is unaware of related issues, in particular those relating to food served at Council events. I can attest to the fact that since the beginning of this Mayors’ term all Council supplied meals at Council and Committee Meetings were Halal compliant. They specifically catered for the religious beliefs of four of the eleven Councillors including the Mayor.
Council staff, under instruction from management, ensured that non-Halal related products were unavailable for almost three years. It should be noted that the previous CEO/GM, also a Muslim, ensured no discrimination occurred, meals were labelled appropriately and Non-Halal food products were readily available at all meetings. However, it is only since the controversial interfaith dinner of late 2015 that meals have reverted to the previous status (although not labelled), possibly due to unfavourable publicity and the manner in which the initial change by “stealth” occurred, non-Halal products such as ham and bacon sandwiches are back on the menu. Thanks primarily due to efforts by the Councillor being castigated for his religious beliefs. Arguably he was being discriminated against as were the majority of Councillors, staff and visitors attending those meetings.

The Mayor extols the virtues of our Multicultural, Multi-ethnic Community at every opportunity, and I support most of that, however, he conveniently leaves out the negative aspects that lead to divisiveness.
Irrespective of one’s religious views the fact that a minority has the power to significantly affect the majority for almost three years, without consultation, is overstepping boundaries and amounts to blatant discrimination. Trivial maybe, but where does it end?

Clr Peter Harle

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9 Responses to Controversial Council meeting 24th of February 2016.

  1. Leonie says:

    Thank you Councillor for you explanation of events.
    It will be interesting to see what happens next to the Mayor.
    Pity he cant be Impeached.

  2. Chris says:

    Dear Peter
    I agree interesting times ahead and I like your response that you rarely give up especially when it is in the best interests of the majority of ratepayers. ……..moderated comment…….. A concerned Ratepayer

  3. Peter Harle says:

    With regard to your comments:
    • I believe my comments are factual and confirmed by the majority of Councillors present including members of the Public Gallery. They can also be readily confirmed from the Audio recording of the meeting.
    • Clr Ristevski received numerous representations from his constituents, as I have over the same “discrimination” issue. I heard every word of your denigrating comments directed at Clr Ristevski including those not mentioned above. I also heard the protests from several Councillors and members of the Public Gallery against your comments, yet the Mayor chose to allow you to continue!
    • You also breached Councils’ Public Speakers Forum Code, had you read it before you signed it you would have known that your comments were inappropriate.
    • The issue was not about “pork sausages” it was about discrimination and influence.
    • The Urgency Motion was brought forward since the Mayor had no intention of stopping your tirade against the Councillor.
    • That Motion was illegally denied by the Mayor, as was the Motion of Dissent. Unfortunately your speech was the trigger that eventually led to the majority of Councillors leaving the Chamber, their only recourse at his illegal, undemocratic and authoritarian decision.
    • Unfortunately one of the Councillors objecting to your comments did not know which rule you were breaching (there were several including s18 of the Anti-Discrimination Act), hence the “section blah, blah, blah” comment. However, had Councils’ Legal Officer attended the meeting, your derogatory comments would have been stopped and your speech terminated. Sadly the Mayor chose not to support Councillors adding to the reasons for the eventual “walkout”.
    • In relation to the Urgency Motion. It was not about “sacking the CEO” as you surmised, it was about discussing issues that some Councillors had regarding management practices. Unfortunately the Mayor persisted with his line of questioning to determine the urgency, once it was stated that it was a staffing matter it should automatically have been regarded as confidential and could only be discussed during a “closed to the public session”. The Mayor denied that opportunity as well as the Motion of Dissent.
    • The overall “fiasco” would have been avoided by allowing the Urgency Motion (re-enforced by the Motion of Dissent) to be discussed. The Mayor could have voluntarily stepped down for the duration of the discussions, as I suggested as a compromise. The Mayors comments and reasoning in relation to the CEO were presumptuous; no one could have predicted the outcome of the Urgency Motion based on debate, my input and any final decision that Councillors would make.

  4. LiverpoolRatepayer says:

    This was not Political grandstanding. I have no desire to go into public politics. I was not there to cause a scene, I was there as a community member representing a large portion of ratepayers who had simply had enough of the petty politics! Social media the week prior was dominated by this same argument and it got nowhere! If I was asked to stop I would have but I was allowed to continue. How the Mayor conducts the meeting is not my responsibility, and yes he may very well have been misapplying the rules and if that’s the case I do hope there are repercussions because you are right, if the pillar of our community is blatantly misapplying the rules then absolutely something should be done!!!

    And please don’t insinuate that my speech stopped the council meeting. The urgency motion did.

    The entire council needs to take a look at themselves if you ask me!!! Liverpool is in a very sad state of affairs indeed.

  5. Genuinely Concerned Resident says:

    LIVERPOOL rate payer as an intelligent and articulate woman it is intriguing that you consciously decided to deliver a speech that was nothing short of political grandstanding and vitriolic. If your sense of community spirit and commitment was the genuine reason for the inflammatory speech I am concerned. You simply antagonised an already volatile environment, displayed poor ego centric jugdment and contributed to the circus that ensued…and to what end – the community present that needed to see council business transacted were let down… the same community you were championing for. Mr mayor needs to learn his meeting rules. The community pillar you were advocating for failed in his primary duty to chair the meeting with impartiality, integrity and in accordance with the rules. His failures fuelled the ongoing circus. The independent’s sensible compromise ignored. My concern is that as an intelligent articulate woman you have not expressed any affront by the mayor’s continual denial of basic rules of meeting procedure. What is our community to think when the very person there to maintain rule of law blatantly misapplies it?

  6. Peter Harle says:

    Jim, I rarely give up especially when it’s in the best interests of the majority of ratepayers.

  7. peter says:

    Public referendum, early election perhaps? Highlighting reasons to ratepayers. Is he throwing matters into disrepute to smokescreen intermodal?

  8. LiverpoolRatepayer says:

    With respect, Clr Harle, I am utterly disappointed by this blog post. To imply that the ratepayers presence at the meeting and my speech was a “setup” is insulting. Being referred to as a “puppet” for the Mayor by others is also offensive. I went there of my own volition after personally witnessing on numerous occasions the behaviour of the Councillor in question, not just within the council chambers. Attempts to cease the counterproductive actions of this Councillor via social media were fruitless. It was well within my rights as a ratepayer in a democratic country to call him out on his behaviour and speak for the people that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. So, perhaps disappointingly for you, there was no set up. The only set up that evening was the presence of news crew and the unions.

    Is it that far-fetched that a woman could voice her opinion and concern without a man (the Mayor) behind it? I am an educated woman who is capable of forming her own opinions, thank you. I am very heavily involved in fighting for my community so you may be surprised to know this is not the first time I have spoken in public in their defence.

    I was not there to accuse the Councillor of racial and religious bias or bigotry. One only needs to read the diatribe he spews daily on social media to conclude that there is a religious and bigoted undertone to everything he says. I, do suspect that this is however just a cover for his personal vendetta/political aspirations but I digress. If you were able to hear my words over all the booing and hissing from the public gallery you would have heard that what offends me is the continuous harping on of things like “pork sausages” that get in the way of real business! We, as ratepayers, are sick of hearing about it. So I’m not against the fight for the pork sausages, but merely, that the issue is not being laid to rest after being resolved! So you are factually unclear in your article, the issue was not halal sausages. I was also allowed to continue because there was no valid reason for me to stop – “section blah blah blah” is not sufficient.

    The fiasco that ensued after my speech was a deliberate attempt by the Councillor in question to evade the next speaker addressing a similar issue. but let’s not forget that the urgency motion was regarding the sacking of the CEO… Which was clearly going to happen regardless of my speech, the media were on notice about this before the meeting had even begun!

  9. Jim McGoldrick says:

    Interesting times Peter, are you up to a real fight. We all deserve better.

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