There’s a piece of legislation that’s just made its way through the SA Government system, and it’s about transparency.
The legislation attempts to remedy a loophole in an older bill by mandating that minutes be published within a week of approval and specifying who is responsible for the upload of what — the deputy speaker uploads Senate minutes, committee chairs upload their committee’s minutes.
These changes are praiseworthy, even if they essentially just bring SA where it should be anyway. But this bill should never have been passed.
Its details are head-scratching and, frankly, seem lazy.
Tacked on the end of the bill is a line revoking the requirement that meeting agendas be released to the public if minutes are recorded for a meeting. There is no discernible logic to this decision, and it does nothing but close opportunities for students to participate in, with, or against their government.
With the passage of this bill, a student wanting to see what Senate was planning to discuss before a meeting would not be able to do so unless Senate decided it wanted to publish its agenda. This bill allows Senate and other SA Government bodies to conceal their plans from curious students. It could make it more difficult for students, upon seeing that Senate may be addressing a controversial issue at a meeting, to organize themselves to express their opinions.
Yes, agendas do not always reflect what actually ends up being discussed at a meeting, but that’s no reason to allow groups not to publish them. And yes, most students probably aren’t clamoring to read Senate agendas, but if they want to, they should be able to, and SA shouldn’t pass something that could inhibit what should be a right.
In addition, this bill reclassifies who, exactly, is the public in the phrase “make publicly available.” Now, documents only need to be made available to students who have paid the student activity fee. What about faculty? Staff? Parents? Administrators? Aren’t these people who might have a stake in the rollout of SA initiatives? Why exclude them?
A bill that invokes increasing transparency in its name should actually do that.