13th August 2007Amid rumours of internal Labor Party brawling over the issue, Premier Peter Beattie has backed down from his threats to sack councils that hold referendums on mergers, saying he doesn’t want to make them “martyrs”.
On Friday, the Queensland Parliament passed legislation which will more than halve the number of councils in the state from 156 to 72.
It included a late amendment allowing the government to sack and fine councils that hold local ballots on the issue, following Prime Minister John Howard’s offer to pay for the Australian Electoral Commission to run the ballots for the councils.
But Mr Beattie today said the government would not rush to sack councils.
“We’re not anxious to rush in and sack anybody – we are anxious to get on with these reforms,” Mr Beattie told reporters after Cabinet met at the Ekka.
“There are some people who are deliberately trying to make themselves martyrs.
“We are trying to avoid that, we are trying to actually get on with the reforms.”
Opposition Leader Jeff Seeney called for Mr Beattie to continue to back down in the face of the public outrage over the issue.
“I’ve said before Peter Beattie is just like a schoolyard bully who will back down if you stand up to him,” Mr Seeney said.
“I think his backflip on this issue should be the start of a series of backflips to get back to a more reasonable approach to council amalgamations.
“He needs to completely back down and go back to the drawing board on council amalgamations to pursue a more democratic and considered approach taking into account local communities’ views.”
Federal Labor figures are also reportedly unhappy with Mr Beattie for preventing council polls, saying it breaches the ALP’s federal rules and platform.
“I’m not going to reply to Chinese whispers,” Mr Beattie said.
“This is a matter for my government to determine.”
SOURCES: The Brisbane Times and Queensland Country Life.