13th August 2007Queensland Mayors are only holding rallies against the State Government’s controversial council amalgamation laws because they don’t want to lose their jobs, Premier Peter Beattie claims.
The Queensland Parliament passed legislation on Friday that will more than halve the number of councils in the state from 156 to 72.
It included a clause allowing the government to sack and fine any council that holds a referendum on the issue, despite an offer from Prime Minister John Howard to pay for the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) to run such local ballots.
Around 1500 people met in the Central Queensland town of Yeppoon yesterday, after Mayor Bill Ludwig vowed to defy the government’s ban on referendums, saying it was a “body blow for democracy”.
“People are entitled to protest and I respect their right to do that but you’ve got the mayor up there, Bill Ludwig and others, who are out organising protests because they don’t want to lose their jobs,” Mr Beattie said.
But Opposition Leader Jeff Seeney, who was at Sunday’s meeting in Yeppoon, said the rally had not been held out of Mr Ludwig’s self-interest.
“That’s quite simply not true and that’s been evident at all of the protests across Queensland,” Mr Seeney said.
“They are whole of community protests and Peter Beattie needs to go to some of the protests and he would see how dishonest and wrong that claim is.”
Many Queensland councils would defy the government and go ahead and hold referendums, he said.
“I think that’s what the message was – that councillors were determined to push ahead and defy the government,” he said.
The Nationals are expecting legal advice this week on whether to seek a judicial review of the legislation.