Rarely used motion causes councillor walk-out

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City of Rockingham administration building.
Camera IconCity of Rockingham administration building. Credit: The Sunday Times

Last night’s City of Rockingham council meeting saw two councillors storm out of the chambers after two procedural motions were passed, effectively defeating without debate two items put forward by councillor Matt Whitfield.

A motion to address recent survey results that identified Port Kennedy residents as the “least satisfied” in the City had intended to direct the City’s chief executive to implement measures to increase their level of satisfaction, however Cr Chris Elliott moved a procedural motion.

A procedural motion halts debate on an item in a council meeting and must receive support in order to proceed.

If passed, the item is defeated and the meeting moves on to the next item on the agenda, with no debate.

Several councillors seemed shocked by the motion, with Cr Lee Downham questioning how and why debate had been terminated.

However, Cr Elliott said he believed Cr Whitfield’s motion was “nothing more than a criticism” of City staff, which he said “shouldn’t be debated”.

The procedural motion was supported by five councillors, representing a majority as Mayor Barry Sammels was absent, and the meeting moved to the next item, another motion by Cr Whitfield.

This motion proposed the City encourage residents and business owners to lobby Federal candidates for the seat of Brand for meaningful funding.

In the officer report, Cr Whitfield said that due to Rockingham being a safe Labor seat, an opportunity needed to be used to “ encourage the residents to campaign and be fully aware of the political situation (namely being that a safe seat means less spending here)”.

“The political parties need to feel the pressure from the residents, the city needs to work strongly on advocacy and this motion requests that as a matter of urgency,” the report said.

However, Cr Elliott again moved a procedural motion, calling the item “an attack” on the Mayor, chief executive and City directors who worked hard to secure grants from both levels of government.

He referenced several projects that had recently received more than $15 million of funding and said that City employees had been “fairly good” at securing funding themselves.

“Council should not be debating an item that is critical... (of City employees),” he said.

Debate on the item was again not allowed to proceed, with Cr Whitfield and Cr Downham storming out after the meeting while Cr Katherine Summers was speaking about a motion to review signage at the Gary Holland Community Centre and Rockingham Arts Centre.

In officer reports, both of Cr Whitfield’s motions were not supported.

Following the meeting, Cr Whitfield posted online that although he respected the decision made by council, he wished that elected members were “actually allowed to share what happens in full, or that council meetings were live streamed”, as he would be able to say what he “really” felt about the meeting.

“What happened tonight does not feel fair is all I will say,” he said.

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