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Opinion: Question Time at Derwent Valley Council’s June meeting

THE monthly meeting of the Derwent Valley Council last night (Thursday) has had many people talking today and some will be expecting a report from New Norfolk and Derwent Valley News about comments made during public question time.

It must be said from the outset that the two reporters who presently attend most Derwent Valley Council meetings (myself and Mike Kerr) were not present for the initial part of the meeting as we both found ourselves locked out of the meeting room. I believe this to be accidental but it is the third time it has happened recently and it’s getting a bit old. A bit of wire and a hook used to be enough to keep the old doors open, I’m not sure why the new door is any different.

Raised voices could be heard inside and when Mr Kerr and myself entered the room (let in by a member of the public fleeing the fracas inside) it became apparent that representatives of New Norfolk Distillery were challenging the mayor in relation to allegations of “leaked information” about their business and “new evidence” relating to that.

Much of what was said from both sides of the room was potentially defamatory and anyone repeating or publishing the remarks may find themselves party to legal action. That’s my view informed by more than 30 years as a working journalist. I will not be repeating the remarks here and I have no doubt defamation lawyers will be very keen to hear the audio recording of the meeting. My view is that the council could also find itself party to legal action by publishing the audio.

However, the name of a public figure was brought into the matter during the meeting from both sides of the argument and that has already resulted in derogatory remarks being made today, online and no doubt in the real world too.

I contacted Craig Farrell MLC, president of the Legislative Council and Member for Derwent, because it was his name used by the New Norfolk Distillery representatives to prosecute their cause and resulted in a subsequent remark by mayor Michelle Dracoulis in defence.

Mr Farrell informed me that he was recently contacted by a law firm asking questions about a meeting of the local branch of the Australian Labor Party and he had provided a response to that law firm.

I have heard commentary today about my involvement in this, based on the fact that Tarrant Derksen approached the media table as he was leaving, and spoke initially to me and then to Mr Kerr. For those interested, what Mr Derksen said was that he would be sending us a media release. Mr Kerr, with slightly older ears than mine, missed the remark and I repeated it for him.

That is where I’m leaving this. By all accounts this relates to current legal action and that process must run its course. It is not my role to prosecute or defend this matter, although some online seem to feel it is their role.


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  1. Regardless of whether any confidential information was leaked or not, what occurred at the council meeting on Thursday should never have happened. The Chair is in complete control of the meeting, and had the ability to control the situation, by (1) refusing to answer the questions (because they had been asked and answered on numerous occasions); and (2) breached the rules of public question time (eg. No personal attacks) The Chair can also shut the meeting down at any time. I am baffled as to why none of these things were not initiated.

  2. Hi Damian, If the audio will not be published anytime soon could you give us a report on the BIG decisions at council such as the Kensington Park issue amongst others.Thank you

    1. Hi Leah, the Kensington Park agenda item was withdrawn on the night but that occurred while I was still locked out.

  3. Wow! I found the letter by ex-Cr Binny about Kensington Park interesting before a vote. On what grounds and how does he know about council valuations?

  4. Hi Damian, long time reader. Out of curiosity, should the council not publish the audio file, do you believe they could come under more scrutiny as they would be breaching the Right To Information Act 2009?

    1. Hi John, that’s a good point, but in practice RTI in Tasmania is more like “Right to (hide) Information” and while I don’t want to give them any ideas, they would probably just say it was withheld for legal reasons. On the other hand, DVC has edited the recording of a meeting at least once…

  5. I’m not quite sure how at the beginning of the meeting we hear the Mayor state that DVC takes Workplace Health and Safety seriously and then just allows what is clearly a breach of this FUNDAMENTAL right of every community and workplace repeatedly. It is also discriminatory as not many community members would feel safe in that toxic environment. I heard one community member close to tears and to this community member I am so sorry . It takes courage to stand up for what you are passionate about.

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