Independent councillor Vicki Curran stormed out of this week’s Wollongong City Council meeting, saying she is sick of being “silenced” by Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery and other councillors.
Cr Curran left the council chambers by slamming a door and apologising to residents in the public gallery after she was not allowed to ask questions at the end of a debate.
The clash between her and Cr Bradbery occurred during discussion over a plan to allow homes on escarpment land in Farmborough Heights.
Cr Bradbery called on Cr Curran to “exercise a right of reply”, after other councillors had spoken for or against her motion to place the plan on hold.
She attempted to ask council staff a series of questions, which Cr Bradbery said was not allowed.
“I have just some questions, I haven’t asked any, am I allowed this meeting to ask any?” Cr Curran said.
“No, at this stage the right of reply is actually to comments that are being made within the debate,” Cr Bradbery said. “I’m of the opinion that it’s not a time to ask questions, it’s [to] exercise a right of reply.”
Cr Curran tried another tack, saying “Well, in my right of reply then, may I ask the question…”, before she was cut off by someone who can be heard giggling on the webcast audio.
Enraged, she shouted “if I’m not allowed to ask questions, fine, I’ll stop altogether asking questions at a council meeting. I’m not introducing new material, I’m not getting up for my right of reply, I haven’t asked any questions.”
“I give up,” she said leaving the chamber. “Sorry Farmborough Heights residents.”
Cr Bradbery told other councillors that “the exercise of that sort of behaviour is not on” before moving on with the meeting.
After the meeting, Cr Curran called the Mercury, and took to social media to raise a complaint that she has been repeatedly “silenced”.
She pointed to an explosive extraordinary meeting in January, where she was prevented from airing views over Skydive the Beach because a majority of councillors voted to snuff out debate on the issue before it got off the ground. She also said Cr Bradbery repeatedly “ignored me totally” at times when she wanted to speak first on a motion.
In response to Cr Curran’s complaint, Cr Bradbery said he has simply been upholding the council’s code of meeting practice, and can not allow meetings to “deteriorate into a free for all”.
“I would welcome an independent review of my conduct in council meetings to address any criticism,” Cr Bradbery said. “I have contacted the council’s governance committee but I would welcome an independent review if that’s what anyone wants.”
He said he was not targeting Cr Curran for any other reason that that she “pushes the boundaries of meeting procedures”.
In an email, Cr Bradbery said he had based his decision upon a piece of council policy approved by councillors in 2003 which states: “Remarks in reply must be limited to discussion of issues raised in debate and no new material may be introduced”.