Monday, 11 May 2015

Where's the news about the motocross track campaign?

Sorry, things have been pretty hectic lately, so it has been a while since I had time to post anything here about what has been happening.

You won't have seen anything in the Gatton Star either.

Unfortunately back in the middle of December last year the Gatton Star decided to impose a gag on the topic of the proposed motocross track until the application goes to Councillors for debate (on the basis that some letters to the editor which had been submitted to them “contained personal attacks and unsubstantiated claims, which could be judged as defamatory or slanderous”).

They haven't explained how the Star are not able to either bin letters to the editor which appear to be legally suspect, or refer them to their lawyers for advice.  They are part of the APN group of regional newspapers, and it's hard to imagine the group doesn't have specialist lawyers on tap, if not on staff, to deal with this sort of thing.
They say that they are "conscious of the importance of encouraging debate on this during the public comment period".  And that they will gladly resume publication after the application goes before the Council.  What good is debate after the Council has made a decision?  That shows a disingenuous ignorance of the meaning of the term "public comment period" - it's not the time when the public at large are commenting about and discussing the proposal (obviously), but the small window of time when the public are able to lodge submissions with the Council in relation to a Development Application.  There has been a lot of public comment since the window for lodging submissions closed - but there would have been a whole lot more if the Star had fulfilled its obligations as a community newspaper.

This is a major local issue.  How many Development Applications get 232 submissions opposing the proposed development
Even supposing that this is a reasonable position for a local newspaper to take, are they so ignorant of the processes of our local government that they are not aware that this matter is being raised in "workshops" between Councillors and Council staff?  It is "before" the Council and has been for a long time.
Cast your mind back to the days of the Gas Power Station fight.  Do you remember the Star not reporting on it or not publishing letters to the editor because the matter hadn't gone to the Councillors for discussion?  Or not publishing anything because the appeal hadn't been heard by the Land and Environment Court?

Way back in my environmental activist days I'd often be part of a group being shown around mining revegetation sites by their PR people.  I quickly learned that if they wanted me to look in a certain direction there was almost always something behind me, or just over the nearest ridge, that they didn't want seen.

Defamatory or slanderous letters to the editor?? 

I think I'll go and look over that ridge.

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