No reason for council to close water debate
THERE is no legitimate reason for the Townsville City Council to close today’s debate on the future of its controversial water charges. Under the Local Government Act, councils can close meetings when the matter relates to commercial tenders or staff appointments. However, in recent years, in the interests of transparency, councils throughout Queensland have opened budget meetings to the public. The reason this council has closed today’s meeting is that it doesn’t want to air its dirty linen in public because there are a group of councillors who are not happy with the way the water pricing issue has been handled. Strong, honest and open debate is a fundamental tenet of western democracy. Imagine if Prime Minister Julia Gillard wanted to close Question Time because Tony Abbott was landing too many punches? Council’s draconian water charges have resulted in a ratepayer backlash never before seen in this city. Ratepayers are entitled to know which councillors are with them on this and which are not. To use the lame excuse that it is State legislation that prevents them from debating the topic in an open forum is a cop out and a convenient argument to escape proper scrutiny. Council should bite the bullet today and announce a reversal of its current policy and a return to the old pricing model, which was much fairer and less taxing on ratepayers. Anything less will be howled down by the community. The $ 454-a-year connection fee is a rolled gold council revenue-raiser which punishes the frugal water users who are trying to do the right thing.
Highway a national disgrace
HEAVY rain and flash flooding is expected to continue in the North today, another reminder that the wet season is far from over for weary residents. With the North still mopping up after Cyclone Yasi, the rain serves as a reminder that living in the tropics can certainly dish out its challenges. For motorists, it’s a daily grind, especially those who live in the Northern Beaches. Mount Low Parkway remains a nightmare during the wet season and the sooner it is fixed the better. The wider implications for heavy rain can be seen on the Bruce Highway, the main arterial road that links the eastern seaboard from Brisbane to Cairns. In North Queensland, the poor state of the Bruce Highway has become a liability. It has been closed hundreds of times in recent years because of rain, disrupting traffic flow and affecting the viability. It has become a national disgrace and it is beyond comprehension that the commonwealth and state governments haven’t been able to do a joint funding deal to fix it.