Councillor Katie Milne.
Councillor Katie Milne. Tweed Daily News

Curb placed on Katie's questions

TWEED’S most talkative shire councillor Katie Milne has been muffled by new rules aimed at curbing her long speeches and marathon question sessions.

The Greens Party councillor is the target of new time limits which give councillors less time to talk about major local issues than it takes to boil an egg.

Her fellow councillors voted on Tuesday to limit speeches on issues before the council to three minutes.

Under the strict new Code of Meeting Practice put up by Cr Dot Holdom, a further extension of two minutes is to be granted only if the majority of councillors vote to allow it.

And questions will be restricted to five queries per councillor.

A further limit of 100 words per question applies.

The new rule follows a drawn-out council meeting in January when Cr Milne tabled nearly 50 questions, many with multiple parts.

The limit has infuriated Cr Milne.

“This is another clampdown by Cr Holdom on questions and participation in democracy,” she told the council meeting.

“I don’t understand what your problem is. You seem to be having a problem with the amount of time I speak.

“It’s nine o’clock now – it’s not late. If you can’t handle that ... I question your level of commitment to the council.”

Cr Joan van Lieshout told Cr Milne her actions had prompted the rule change.

“Cr Milne we are all very disappointed we have come to this point, but you have exhausted all of us,” she said.

“I object to that,” interjected Cr Milne. “I’ve been exhausted by you guys.”

Cr Kevin Skinner said threeminutes “to speak on a particular subject as a general rule is plenty of time”.

Yesterday Cr Milne blamed other councillors for leaving it to her to raise issues.

“There is so much going on in the Tweed; to be limited to five questions is madness,” she said.

“Yes, I do talk a lot in council meetings, but I resent the fact that workload is left to my shoulders.

“I really resent having to ask all the questions myself.

“We’ve got huge developments up for mini-cities and they want to limit my time talking about it to three minutes.”

Cr Milne said the new rules were part of “the most draconian code of meeting practice” of any council in NSW and a further attack by her fellow councillors on transparency.

“I might just have to ask my questions in the newspaper,” she added.

Mayor Warren Polglase said Tuesday’s meeting, which went until 10.30pm, would have finished much sooner had the rule been in place then, adding that councillors spent many more hours doing research and visiting sites across the shire beforehand.

“What my colleagues are saying to each other is we just want to get on with the job,” Cr Polglase said.

“If people are sitting in the gallery waiting hours and hours for their application to come forward we have a responsibility to them.”

Cr Polglase said questions could be asked of senior staff by councillors at almost any time via email using their newly issued i-Phones.

“There’s some councillors that use that system frequently. It doesn’t require those questions to be brought up in the arena of council,” he said.

But Cr Milne argued she would not be allowed to reveal answers to questions which were not publicly asked. She declined to be in a photo for this story yesterday.

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