The Independent (Footscray, Vic. : 1883 - 1922)/December 1907/Minutes of the Essendon, Victoria Council

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The Essendon Council at its last meeting was asked by a correspondent to put down the practise of bathing in the "altogether" that the writer alleged was being carried on to a disgusting extent in the Saltwater river at Maribyrnong. In the discussion of the subject that followed councillors generally endorsed the statements made by the correspondent. One councillor pointed out that a regulation was in force dealing with the whole matter - hours, costume, etc., whilst it was also stated that a request for a plain-clothes constable to patrol the banks and deal with the nuisance had been disregarded by the Police Department. Cr Cole pointed out that "proper costume" varied so much that it was well nigh impossible to get a proper legal definition. He had defended youngsters who had produced little trunks; but such small articles adorning the fine manly physique of a gentleman of Cr Eddy's Herculean proportions for instance would probably not be deemed at law to be adequate covering. They might, perhaps, emulate the Sydney example of requiring such cases to be met by the adoption of frilled skirts (laughter) - something of the neck and knee order might be more indecent than skirts. It was decided that plain-clothes constables be applied for to patrol the river on Saturdays and Sundays for one month to deal with the unmannerly bather. When a country constable doing unwilling service as an inspector of nuisances was called upon to report monthly to his council he managed to take it out of his municipal masters with the following formula:" Gentlemen I beg to report that I have nothing to report." Needless to say, repeated month after month the councillors grew tired of this hollow form and found it very irksome to move that the report be adopted. With the Legislative committee of the Footscray council the same spirit of burlesque, in an inverse ratio, attaches to the proceedings where, in council meeting, one of the councillors rises and formally moves fortnight after fortnight that the report of the Legislative committee be "'taken as read, received and adopted" when there is no such report. At any rate no report of that particular committee ever sees the light of day, although there is much to report, judging by the protracted discourses: that have taken place there of, late. The utter foolishness of this proceeding was at last realised by one the Councillors on Monday night last, when he asked his colleague, who had just moved the adoption of the committee's report, "What is the report?" It might be more in keeping with the fitness of things, though still skirting the burlesque, if the mover would substitute in future the phrase, "Let every councillor read, mark, learn and inwardly digest what transpired in Legislative committee last meeting." Even then such a telepathic injunction might leave strange contradictory impressions on the mental slate, and councillors, if ever called upon, might introduce strange tricks of memory judging by the different versions given by different councillors to the questioning scribes in the process of giving up committee secrets. Reports of other committee's are recorded in black and white and sometimes their correctness is questioned and efforts made to interpolate amendments, but no variation - it would be sacrilege to hint at it - is ever suggested in the intangible substance of the Legislative committee's report. Doubtless there is need for secrecy on many points, but records without distinction of everything that is done in the silent chamber are kept absolutely from the public view. Surely a discriminating report could be furnished of some of the matters handled by the committee. The secret negotiations are always highly interesting judging by the snap with which they are debated and the contrast is a heavy one when councillors reach the open chamber. All the vim has departed and it seems very often like a secondhand battle or a resorting over of the dry husks to which the attendant pressmen are treated with an occasional fiery spurt of indignant, declamation over the terrible wrongs inflicted on a suffering public by sleepy postal and railway departments. Something better than a mental record of the committee's doings should be adopted otherwise the proceeding is highly farcical, and no councillor would like to have that description applied to their corporate deliberations.

7 December 1907