Jim Bright - 14 October 2014
Jim Bright made the following comments in Non Agenda Public forum at the Ordinary Council Meeting on 14 October 2014.
My name is Jim Bright. I'm the secretary of the Narooma Branch of the Australian Labor Party.
At last month's branch meeting, the members unanimously resolved to oppose the application by the South Coast Hunters' Club for permission to sell firearms at future Huntfest events.
It's probably true to say that there has always been a fair degree of disquiet amongst our members regarding the Council's previous Huntfest approval decisions.
However, for our members, the proposition that our elected Councillors should now take the very large additional step of facilitating both the promotion of gun ownership and the actual sale of guns on community-owned land is a proposition that cannot be allowed to go unopposed.
As we pointed out last week in our written submission to the General Manager,
"although for some elements of the Australian community, there might arguably be some limited positive aspects to properly managed and regulated gun ownership, the rationally undeniable fact is that such ownership has resulted in, and will inevitably again result in, seriously negative consequences for many innocent members of our wider community".
This consideration has to be front and centre in any of your deliberations in relation to the latest Huntfest application. An application, if it was to be approved by you, would mean that the Eurobodalla Shire Council would be making community owned facilities available for the encouragement and sale of a product that must inevitably increase the risk of death and serious injury to members of the general public.
It is fundamental to our representative democratic system of government in Australia that those who are elected by the community should endeavour at all times to act in the context of what is in the wider public interest.
This excellent document* (which is referred to in our written submission) has been produced by the office of the NSW Ombudsman for the guidance of NSW parliamentarians and councillors on a range of issues. In section 3.1 it addresses the meaning of the concept of 'the public interest' in considerable detail and confirms that Councillors have at all times "an over-arching obligation to act in the public interest".
These guidelines spell out that public interest decisions of Councillors must not be narrowly focused in terms of issues or groups and must include consideration of what is in the best interest of the over-all "good order" and "well being" of the entire community.
It is also relevant to remind you that section 8 of the Local Government Act requires the Council "to exercise community leadership" and, importantly in the context of the matter before us, "to have regard to the long term and cumulative effects of its decisions".
I would also take this opportunity to remind those Council staff members who are responsible for advising Councillors on this matter that section 6.1 of this same manual spells out the need for them to be providing reports "that are materially accurate" and that "cover all of the issues relevant to the matter" - not just, for example, the economic issues.
In summary therefore, our view is that your 'public interest' deliberations must be comprehensive and wide-ranging and in our view must inevitably result in a decision to reject this proposal.
Before concluding my comments, I must mention this remarkable petition that has been circulating the planet via the internet. Apparently this petition was initiated by a young woman who was visiting the area earlier this year. She was appalled by the proposal to sell guns at Huntfest.
This petition has attracted a remarkable 41,000 signatures. If even a small proportion of that was to represent potential tourists to this area, we should be gravely concerned about the tourism implications of this proposal.
Australian Labor Party
*'Good Conduct and Administrative Practice – Guidelines for state and local government (2nd edition)' – NSW Government Publication ISBN 1 921 131 52 7