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City council set to overturn controversial gag order

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Two Adelaide City councillors – including one from the majority Team Adelaide faction – will propose the council remove its newly-installed gag rule on elected members following widespread criticism from the public and media.

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Team Adelaide-affiliate Alexander Hyde, who last week voted to impose a new standing order that prevents councillors from speaking to the media about their proposals before the publication of meeting agendas, told InDaily this morning he will now seek to abolish the rule at next week’s council meeting.

Team Adelaide and independent councillor Jessy Khera voted to impose the rule, but their support drew significant backlash from the public, the journalists’ union and former Local Government Minister Mark Brindal, who introduced the Act that governs the city council.

Hyde said he has not spoken to other members of Team Adelaide about the idea. If the team does vote en bloc in support of his motion it would indicate a major backdown from the majority faction, which had previously fought to quell criticism that the change to the standing orders was akin to a “gag” on councillors

Hyde told InDaily in a statement this morning that he originally supported the gag order because he felt it would address “very real cultural issues” with councillors’ conduct.

“Our council’s ructions aren’t unique in South Australia, but as the capital city council I think we should be held to a higher standard than what the old standing orders allowed for,” he said.

“That means not leaking to the press, not being disruptive in the chamber and also being consultative and professional.

“Nevertheless, standing orders 229.1 and 230 (the gag clauses) have become an unwelcome distraction for both the public and the chamber, that’s why I have moved decisively to remove them.”

Hyde said the council would “now never know whether they (the standing orders) would have helped or hindered” the council in serving ratepayers.

“Because the effects of the misnamed ‘gag’ were heavily sensationalised, many improvements in the standing orders were overlooked,” he said.

“I’m pleased the Lord Mayor now has the power to eject councillors for poor behaviour, and that those found guilty of misconduct can now be removed from appointments, including paid positions.”

Non-Team Adelaide affiliate Anne Moran, who has been a vocal opponent to the gag rule, has already lodged a separate motion calling on the council to “immediately remove Section 229.2 and 230 of the standing orders which refer to councillors engaging with the media”.

Moran has provided InDaily with the exact wording to her motion, meaning she has breached the council’s standing orders and now risks racking up her second code of conduct warning this council term.

Moran told InDaily today she was “absolutely furious” that Hyde had suggested that he would lodge a similar motion.

“Are they (Team Adelaide) planning to vote against mine – which is calling on the same thing as Hyde’s motion – and then vote on his because he is part of Team Adelaide?,” she questioned.

“If they do I will be taking that straight to the Local Government Association and the Local Government Minister to prove that they’re bloc voting.

“I’m so over Team Adelaide and their stupid game playing.”

Moran said she thought Team Adelaide was being “hypocritical” by back-flipping on its original support for the gag clause.

“It seems that now with the luxury of hindsight they’ve realised they’ve made a terrible mistake,” she said.

“My motion is just to get this right out of the ballpark and move on.

“My stance is completely logical and I have always held the same position.

“I will be asking him (Hyde) to withdraw his motion immediately.”

Last week Moran told InDaily she would move a motion in the coming weeks calling on the council to encourage churches to open their doors to the homeless.

In doing so, she said she was breaching the council’s standing orders.

However the council’s governance manager Rudi Deco told councillors in an email, seen by InDaily, that if Moran “intends to go to the media” with proposed motions “it will not contravene section 229.2 of the standing orders… if what’s conveyed to the media is not the written notice of motion”.

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