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City council gag order swept under the rug

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After two weeks of community backlash, Adelaide City Council has voted to overturn its controversial gag rule on elected members – albeit after silencing debate.

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It took the council just over one minute to overturn the gag rule, with the majority of councillors – including vocal opponent Anne Moran – last night voting to skip any debate of the vote.

The rule, which was imposed by the council with the support of the Team Adelaide majority faction and independent councillor Jessy Khera earlier this month, prohibited elected members from speaking to the media about their motions before the publication of meeting agendas.

The decision drew intense backlash from the public, the journalists’ union, and current and former state politicians, who questioned the legality of the rule and likened it to a gag on councillors.

Moran – who over the past two weeks breached the standing orders by speaking to the media about her intended motions – moved that the council immediately remove the ruling from the standing orders.

She told InDaily last week that if the council did not vote in support of her motion she would launch a legal challenge in the Magistrates Court.

The vote to overturn the gag rule was carried with the support of councillors Houssam Abiad, Simon Hou, Alexander Hyde, Mary Couros, Robert Simms, Anne Moran Jessy Khera and Helen Donovan.

Councillors Franz Knoll and Arman Abrahimzadeh voted against Moran’s motion, with Phil Martin absent from the meeting.

Only one councillor voted against bypassing debate – Robert Simms – who told InDaily this morning he was against “gagging” discussion in the chamber.

“My approach is I never vote for guillotining debate,” he said.

“I think it’s also good to have discussion in the chamber to get a sense of the thought-process of some councillors changing their position.

“I can only assume that they didn’t want to speak further about the vote, but I wasn’t privy to those discussions.”

Moran told InDaily this morning the vote to overturn the gag rule was a win for democracy.

She said she voted to bypass debate as she “didn’t want to poke the bear that is Team Adelaide”.

“I knew that there were some councillors that kept changing their mind as to whether they were going to vote for it or not,” she said.

“Just before the meeting we had the numbers and so I just wanted to get it (the vote) done with as quickly as possible to get it through.

“It was best that we didn’t rip Team Adelaide apart with a fiery speech, because that could have made them change their mind.”

Team Adelaide-affiliate Alexander Hyde had also lodged a motion calling on the council to remove the gag rule from its standing orders, but he pulled it after Moran’s motion passed.

Also at last night’s meeting, the council has supported a move to consult churches and the State Government about opening their doors to the rough sleepers at night.

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