Tough ques­tion for our mayor over di­vi­sions

Townsville Bulletin - - Voice Of The North -

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.

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