AustraliaHobart Council row erupts as members stage a meeting walkout against climate change motion
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A row has erupted inside the walls of Hobart City Council over a motion to recognise climate change as a global emergency.
On Monday night, the council was due to vote on councillor Bill Harvey's urgent motion, which would see Hobart City Council officially declare a "climate and biodiversity emergency".
But before the council could cast a vote, three councillors left the meeting, in what is believed to be the first time in Hobart City Council's history.
Aldermen Simon Behrakis, Damon Thomas and Jeff Briscoe walked out of the meeting, leaving the rest of council "in shock".
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Mr Harvey said the gesture by all three members was "extraordinary".
"They knew if they left there wouldn't be a quorum … It's disappointing and very unusual. I've never seen it happen before," he said.
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"It was unexpected, but it was also premeditated … that's the annoying part, that they had set it up beforehand in order to avoid having to vote and losing the vote."
Approximately 500 councils across the world have committed to recognising climate change as a global emergency.
Nineteen councils across Australia make up that number, with the ACT the first state or territory in the country to follow suit.
If passed, Mr Harvey's motion would have seen Hobart City Council write to Prime Minister Scott Morrison to urge his Government to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency.
Councillor Zelinda Sherlock was at last night's meeting and took to Facebook to express her disappointment that the motion was not debated.
"Mind the language — integrity of an arsehole. Or may be (sic) I'm wrong and it's not urgent," she said.
"I think it's a breach of the democratic process and it's an insult to representing members of your community.
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"I'd be in school if the earth were cool."
"There is a lack of leadership that is required on an issue that is so important. It also shows sometimes … some people will not put the greater good above their own motivations."
Other councillors also voiced their opinions on social media.
While Mr Behrakis said he was not opposed to voting on the issue, he accused Mr Harvey of trying to rush the motion through without adequate discussion.
"I think pushing it through the way that they did smacks of sleazy and cynical politicking," he said.
Mr Behrakis also argued the motion could not be properly debated with three other councillors absent from the meeting — Deputy Lord Mayor Helen Burnet and aldermen Marti Zucco and Tanya Denison.
"To push that forward on a night where he knew he would have the numbers … and try to drive it through without debate, we all thought that was inappropriate," Mr Behrakis said.
"The motion wasn't going to get the debate it was due and we felt protesting in that form was the necessary thing to do."
Mr Harvey said he would reintroduce the motion to committee before it goes to a full council meeting at a later date.
"I think I'll hold back until I'm sure there is a full contingent of councillors and alderman in the room," he said.
"To make sure there's 12 councillors in the room and it can be voted by all councillors."
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