8th August 2007Democracy comes at a high price in Queensland, with the State Government legislating to fine defiant mayors and councillors $1125 each if they poll their residents on forced amalgamations.
The uproar against council amalgamations has not waned, with protesters marching on the Premier’s office yesterday, and rural shires continuing to advertise their anger in metropolitan papers.
The State Government will introduce its legislation to Parliament today, under which the number of councils will be slashed from 157 to 72.
But Shadow Local Government Minister Howard Hobbs said the decision to fine mayors who allowed their residents to vote on the merger was an unprecedented low.
“Hitting councillors and mayors who are giving their communities their democratic right to have a say on the future of their communities is unbelievable,” Mr Hobbs said.
“This is a battle that every Queenslander has to fight and I urge all communities to raise the funds independently from council to run these polls so the strongest message is sent to the Beattie Government.”
Despite the fine threat, many councils are still expected to use opinion polls to gauge local residents’ views and put pressure on the state government.
But there will be no concessions to the people of Noosa, Port Douglas or small rural communities who have been most vocal in their opposition, Premier Peter Beattie has said.
“We will be accepting the boundaries as recommended by the Commission,” Mr Beattie said.
Mr Beattie again rejected claims that the issue would rise during the Federal election and played down Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd’s concerns over the amalgamated councils.
“I don’t think people are going to be hoodwinked by a campaign by the National Party to try and blame Kevin Rudd,” he said.
“At the end of the day, if there is any blame it should be directed at me.”
On the weekend Mr Rudd said he would examine the new boundaries very closely and discuss the issue with Queensland’s Local Government Association.
SOURCE: Queensland Country Life and The Brisbane Times.