Cr Tony Williams.
Cr Tony Williams. File

Lifting the veil of secrecy

TONY Williams wants to strike a blow for transparency.

The Rockhampton councillor says he's had enough of the council hiding behind the Privacy Act.

"Telling someone who has made a complaint that the matter is being dealt with appropriately actually tells them nothing at all," he told his colleagues this week.

But whenever anyone who has complained about an overgrown garden, dangerous dog or any other issue inquires about progress with their complaint, that is the only response staff are allowed to provide, in a bid to protect the privacy of individuals involved in disputes.

But Cr Williams said he believed that the council bureaucracy's interpretation of the Privacy Act was too literal.

"We are following the letter of the law, rather than its intention and I think there's room for us to move.

"We need to be more transparent with our community."

He said the lack of feedback provided to people was a constant cause of anger and frustration and he couldn't see the need for it."

And his stand struck a chord with his colleagues with councillors voting unanimously for his motion seeking a review of disclosures and the Privacy Act.

"Impacted constituents are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the affect a rigorous adherence to the legislation is having," he said in a background paper supporting his move.

He said growing numbers of people were so frustrated by the lack of information coming out of the council that were publicly airing their grievance in the media.

"This option is becoming increasingly prevalent in terms of nuisance-type complaints."

Cr Williams said he was seeking clarification of the privacy principles required to "enable the council to more adequately address the concerns of its constituents whilst adhering to the law."

As the chairman of health and regulatory services he is responsible for the department which receives most complaints.

He revealed last week that the council got at least five official complaints a day about overgrown yards, but the rules forbade officers from keeping complainants updated.

Even victims of serious dog attacks were kept in the dark about action taken against the dog's owners.

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