Tough question for our mayor over divisions
MAYOR Les Tyrell has made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t want Townsville City Council going to a divisional voting system at the next election. This is despite overwhelming evidence from the community that it wants divisions. And yet Cr Tyrell continues to suggest that, anecdotally, whatever that means, the people don’t want divisions. This is wrong. Cr Tyrell has misled the public on water rates and now he is trying to perpetuate another myth about divisional representation. The question that now needs to be posed is: what is Cr Tyrell afraid of? Late last year, a parliamentary committee handed down a report after an exhaustive review of Queensland’s local government electoral system with a view to setting up the key recommendations as part of the new Local Government Electoral Act. In that report, the committee said the best interests of a community should be the key focus of any decision to introduce or abolish divisions of a council. According to the report, the majority of the submissions received by the committee related to Townsville City Council. The report said the concerns raised in the ‘‘ vast majority’’ of the submissions from this area related to the current undivided status of the council. Many of those who made submissions stated they did not have a connection to their local councillors, while some said they did not even know who their councillors were. A member of the public said the concern was that the ‘‘ local’’ element in larger councils could become eroded. According to the report, one consistent message emerged and that was people want representation. They want to know who their local representatives are. They want their local councillors to understand the needs of their particular area, to provide effective representation of the community’s needs and to be accountable to their residents. There were also concerns expressed that those councillors who did not provide effective representation should not be able to hide among, or to be carried by, their elected colleagues. The report said perceptions of, or the reality of, poor representation, could occur more easily in undivided councils by their very nature because among the ‘‘ pool’’ of councillors, lines of direct accountability could become blurred or lost. That is exactly what has happened to the current Townsville City Council. It is illogical and deceptive for Cr Tyrell to continue this charade that Townsville doesn’t want divisions. Cr Tyrell has been elected to reflect the opinion of ratepayers. Unless they change their mind, the danger for the hard-working councillors is that it will come back to haunt them at the ballot box.