Letter | I have the right to speak publicly about council

MARJORIE Armstrong was kind enough to comment in the Oberon Review of June 20 on my letter of the previous week. She seems troubled by my apparently taking it upon myself to speak on behalf of the ratepayers of Oberon, since some of my comments appear on the Oberon Shire Residents and Ratepayers Association (OSRandRA) Facebook page; she seems concerned that I criticise Oberon Council from time to time.

There is a group of us in Oberon who believe that where there are waste, errors and mismanagement in council, it is best for all of us that such matters are addressed publicly. There are also many occasions where reasonable people can disagree, and we feel it important then to let our council know our views.

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Any person in a free society has the right to speak up. It was never the intent of the Local Government Act that the only public input to the affairs of councils was that we get to exercise our vote once every four years. For council to understand the best interests of the community there must be an ongoing exchange of views between ratepayers and councillors, even in years that are not election years.

Experience shows that to influence governments it is necessary to let the public know the issues and the arguments. Undoubtedly, such interaction will appear to many as criticism. Neither we nor council would learn much if the rules of engagement are that no-one can be criticised for anything at any time.

As for the OSRandRA, we have discussed whether we should formally incorporate an association. At some stage in the future we may well do so, and if we do, we hope many of you will come and join us.

In the meantime, we work together to let you, the public, know where we can see things that can be improved in the operation of our council. Sometimes, we write to our council and councillors about issues, sometimes we seek to publish in the Review or on Facebook. We do not pretend that we are speaking for the ratepayers of Oberon. Communications from us is over the signature of individuals, not a possible future association.

I have always admired Marjorie for the work she did for the anti-amalgamation campaign. But there seemed little reticence in those days about vocally and forcefully criticising the NSW Government. Is it that there is one rule for thee when the state government lays itself open to critique, and another one for me when I dare criticise our local council? I hope not.

Hardy Draheim