Phones to be switched off not silenced in council chambers.
Phones to be switched off not silenced in council chambers. Peter Holt

CHRC gives the silent treatment

COUNCILLOR Gai Sypher has called out the Central Highlands Regional Council on consistency, after a bold move was made to ban anyone and everyone from having a mobile phone switched on in a general meeting.

While phones are rarely switched off in today's world - even the Supreme Court of Queensland allows phones to be switched to silent before the court room is entered - if you want to attend a CHRC meeting you must turn your phone off before you are allowed into the council chambers.

But Cr Gai Sypher voiced her concern about whether the policy would be taken seriously and enforced.

"I have never seen this council consistent in anything," she said.

But Mayor Peter Maguire was quick to assure that he had every intention of enforcing the new policy and said a councillor who ignored it would be written into the minutes as displaying inappropriate conduct in a meeting.

Discussions around the possibility of phones simply being switched to silent were short-lived.

Mayor Maguire simply said: "They are a distraction."

The move is one that mimics none of the council's closest local government neighbours - with both the Barcaldine Regional Council and Isaac Regional Council trusting staff and the public to be respectful.

"Isaac Region councillors have a standing agreement that mobile phones are on silent within meetings and urgent calls are taken outside of meetings," Isaac Mayor Anne Baker said.

"Mobile phones in no way are banned from our meetings, it really is just general respect being applied."

But general respect was not enough for the Central Highlands councillors, who voted in the changes to the standing orders to include the new amendments.

Two councillors voted against the changes and Cr Peter Maundrell was one who said the changes were not enough.

Nearly all nine councillors use iPads throughout the meeting, and Cr Maundrell said if phones were a distraction, iPads should be considered the same way because they had the same capabilities with messaging and calls.

Cr Maguire said banning iPads would not be effective because councillors used them to view the meeting agenda.

The decision was passed and will come into force from the next meeting in a fortnight.

Your say

Helen Wood: Ridiculous ... what do they want to hide from us?

Melanie McMaster: Too many people pick their phone up out of habit and start reading a text or Facebook.

Elizabeth Jeacocke: What if a family member has an emergency and needs to get in contact with their partner?


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