LGAQ CEO Greg Hallam. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
LGAQ CEO Greg Hallam. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

‘Time to throw the doors open to press freedom’

THE head of an organisation representing 77 councils across the state says it's high time state and federal governments threw open the doors and let the press work unencumbered.

Local Government Association of Queensland CEO Greg Hallam said as the tier of government "at the bottom of the pile", councils felt the same frustrations about how difficult it had become to find out how decisions were being made.

After the launch of the Your Right To Know campaign by the nation's major media outlets, including the Sunshine Coast Daily, Mr Hallam penned a weekly update column expressing his support for freedom of the press and the need for greater transparency in state and federal decision-making.

In the column he spoke of the need for "fearless journalists" to uncover and expose difficult truths, "right the wrongs and expose the stuff governments, corporations and very occasionally councils do not want you to ever see".

"Whether we like it or not journalists (not always their publishers) have standards and codes of ethics to which they largely adhere," he wrote.

"Yes, journalists can be the bane of our lives in local government at times.

"They can be pushy, prickly, cynical, even downright rude.

"However the alternative - no one to tell our story, no independent filter on the excesses of our institutions or big business - would be much worse."

Speaking to the Daily, Mr Hallam said he stood by his comments, and said the freedom of journalists to do their work without fear of prosecution was vital.

He said some of the biggest decisions made in history remained a secret to the public, and it was time the options decided upon in Cabinet Room meetings were made public knowledge.

He said local government was the most transparent level of the three tiers, and questioned why councils had to commit to a mass of transparency measures, while the two higher tiers didn't.

"What's good for the goose is good for the gander," Mr Hallam said.

"We're at the bottom of the pile."

He said he had "no doubt" about how councils around the state felt, having spent so much time with them.

He said planning issues, where overarching regional plans were decided and population growth dictated, often by the State Government, were usually left with councils to deal with.

"We're carrying the baby," Mr Hallam said.

He said they were still pushing for a "fair go" from the Federal Government, as they sought one per cent of total taxation federally, as at present they were forced to cater to growth with limited funds.



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