Text of above media statement:
MEDIA STATEMENT 23 June 2017.
QLGRA is recognised as the peak representative state wide body for ratepayer groups and other organisations with interests in local council matters and has been representing these groups since 2013.
Today we are proud to stand with Hon Rob Pyne (MP Cairns) and support him in his efforts to have an ICAC style inquiry convened to fully investigate the allegations of corruption and misconduct that have become apparent throughout councils in Queensland.
It is our opinion that CCC Operation Belcarra has only scratched the surface of the hidden systemic abuse of power within councils to the detriment of the people these councils are supposed to represent.
Both major parties, while in government, have ignored the multitude of complaints, that go back as far as 1999, and it is well past time for this unacceptable situation to be resolved, so as to be able to return councils to their proper role without secrecy and the enablement to hide corruption and misconduct.
We call upon the current government to act and convene an Independent Inquiry immediately. Such an inquiry should not be inhibited, and have broad ranging terms of reference to allow it to follow any and all leads that it may uncover.
QLGRA has supported Rob Pyne’s actions since he tabled his first documents in October 2015, and believe he has been extremely responsible in his use of Parliamentary Privilege to bring to the notice of the people of Qld, the government and authorities the anomalies, toxic cultures and corruption within councils.
Rob Pyne is the only parliamentarian who has persevered against formidable opposition to truly represent the people of Queensland and bring to light what now must become an open Independent Inquiry.
‘In November the QLGRA received a request from Steve Jarron from the firm LG Global Innovation. His firm organised a forum in Sydney on 29th November to address the threatened amalgamation of councils by the NSW government. Steve asked if the QLGRA could provide an outline of the impacts of the amalgamations in Queensland – we have to say it was very hard to keep it short.’
Read the bad news in the Nov-Dec 2013 newsletter it makes rivetting reading and only goes to show that we are not alone and we should never give up on the people in our communities who deserve the democracy of their own local government.
OPEN LETTER TO PREMIER CAMPBELL NEWMAN
1 January 2014
On behalf of the people of Redcliffe, I demand that a referendum be held in conjunction with the proposed by-election for the Seat of Redcliffe.
I will be an Independent candidate for the Seat when the by-election is called. In the lead-up to the campaign, I have been asking the electors what the main issues are for them. What I am hearing is an overwhelming outrage at the dramatic rises in water rates. That outrage stems from the perception that Redcliffe residents have been ignored in their opposition to forced Council amalgamation and the subsequent establishment of Unitywater.
It is my understanding that an overwhelming majority of residents (93%) voted against amalgamation. Yet the Labor Government of the day ignored the objections and proceeded with the creation of the Moreton Bay Regional Council (MBRC). Your Government proposed that the de-amalgamation of the MBRC could be put to a referendum if certain criteria were met to trigger such a referendum.
The criteria required our local LNP MP to circulate a petition to residents, collate responses and present them to your Government. He was the only member of parliament to conduct and solely control a petition for de-amalgamation. It is a widely held belief in our community that our local LNP MP at that time, Mr Scott Driscoll, did not effectively circulate that petition nor did he act on the concerns of his constituents to redress community concerns.
The Save Redcliffe Committee a sub committee of the Ratepayers Action Group then circulated a petition of their own design requesting a referendum on the matter, and collected in excess of 12,000 signatures. This petition was presented to your Government but was rejected because of its format and supposed late presentation. I contend that your Government has been presented with the wishes of the people, in accord with the prevailing legislation at that time, yet chooses to ignore them.
The creation of Unitywater was facilitated by the amalgamation process. The former Labor Government was then able to transfer Government debt to the newly created Statutory Authority. As a consequence Unitywater has huge debt ($1.5b), and interest payments of $95m, as shown in its latest Annual Report. The dismantling of Unitywater would result in much of the debt being returned to the State where it legitimately belongs.
Placing such a debt and repayment obligations on a body that supplies such a basic staple of life is, in my opinion, an obscenity. This is taxation of the most regressive kind which will cripple future generations. A flat rate tax on water hurts all consumers, but what angers me most is that the lowest income earners of our State are saddled with horrendously escalating living costs. The GST, in comparison, exempts basic food items from taxation, yet this tax-by-stealth hits the most basic life essential – water.
A referendum on the matters of de-amalgamation of MBRC and the dis-mantling of Unitywater, as demanded by this electorate, will expose the actions of the former Labor Government as reprehensible in the extreme. If your Government is prepared to conceal the former Government’s despicable behaviour, then I fear that you will face condemnation for generations to come.
The by-election we now face is a terrible waste of taxpayer’s money brought about by the resignation of our former MP, Scott Driscoll. The reasons for his resignation have already been widely discussed in Parliament, media and other arenas. If we are to face this cost, at least let us have a referendum at the same time. That way the appalling neglect of Redcliffe by its elected representative, and by your Government, can have a positive outcome for our community.
I appeal to you as a man who supports the democratic right of the people to be heard, and as a proponent of financial responsibility, to let the Redcliffe electors vote at a referendum on these issues in conjunction with the proposed by-election.
Independent Candidate for Redcliffe
‘The QTC Demerger Cost Estimates that the Government is using are so exaggerated that they are totally misleading, and in fact appear to be more than double the actual cost in Noosa’s case as demonstrated in the article in the Sunshine Coast Daily.
New Noosa Mayor Playford on the money
NOOSA Mayor Noel Playford has been proved right in his claims that de-amalgamation would cost considerably less than the $11m quoted by Queensland Treasury Corporation.
Transfer manager Peter Franks who will become interim CEO of the Noosa Council from January 1 said yesterday(Tues) that it would also have an operational surplus and at worst break even in the first financial year of the new era.
Mr Franks said the organisation would be fiscally conservative with a focus on service delivery to ratepayers.
He said $5m had been saved by outsourcing IT services and he had kept his own costs as low as possible. The six months of planning for the split had cost about $1m less than half the Treasury’s estimate.
“I don’t have the final asset list,” Mr Franks said. “But we are not planning to buy any plant or equipment….”
NOVEMBER 9 2013
FOUR SHIRES RECEIVED DEMOCRACY – WHY NOT ALL?
Protest at Noosa Saturday 09 November 2013
A group of protestors travelled to Noosa to protest the unjust process of de-amalgamations. The Queensland Local Government Reform Alliance representing 21 other council areas all over Queensland drew the attentions of candidates, voters and candidate supporters.
“We congratulated the Noosa residents on having the right to choose their democratic council and drew to their attention the fact that many other shires were denied the same vote.” said Colin Hewett (Vice President) . “Many of the voters and several support staff gave us support and agreed that they fully understood our dilemma. Many asked what could they do to help? Some support staff assisted with putting up our posters!”
“Many of the Noosa voters confirmed our experience – amalgamated councils have universally experienced the same effects. Increasing rates, higher debt levels, decreased services, loss of community representation in decision making, loss of identity – the list is endless.”
Colin said the day was very successful. “We have spread the word and will continue to do so. We ask that the Premier and his Minister for Local Government David Crisafulli organise a Commission of Review into the amalgamations and a proper boundary review. They should ask all residents throughout Queensland to indicate areas of concerns and conduct a full public review of boundaries. They know that amalgamated councils are not working. Then the Premier should allow a referendum in all areas where there is need for a boundary review or de-merger.”
Has The Minister Admitted He Was Wrong?
“Minister Crisafulli has at last admitted publicly, albeit it through the back door, that he has got it wrong” Bob Johnson Chair of Local Government Reform Alliance said today. Mr Johnson referred to Minister Crisafulli’s “Round Table to discuss ways council can remain viable.” Mr Johnson said “It is time that the Minister admitted that the amalgamations of councils across Queensland has been a massive failure. It was huge error of the Beattie government which Minister Crisafulli is in the prime position to repair.”
Mr Johnson was critical of the fact that the Minister has invited many of the culprits responsible for amalgamation and those now benefitting personally from amalgamations to attend the Round Table. “The Minister now wants the culprits to remedy the situation – how likely is it that they will come up with a viable solution when they created the situation in the first place or they are in there personally benefitting from the huge increase in wages and allowances?” The Minister has invited Mayors and CEO’s from local Councils, the Auditor General the CEO of the Qld Treasury Corporation, – and are looking to undertake creative exercises like selling public land to ensure viability. Short term thinking and self interest abound. “
“I ask “why has he not invited independent specialists like Professor Brian Dollery or established a independent Commission of Review (which he has rejected) into the effectiveness of amalgamations so that members of the public can have a say?” “High level remuneration for CEOs, Mayors and Councillors” he said “ buried any chance of cost efficiencies “
The Queensland Local Government Reform Alliance (QLGRA), a state-wide alliance of groups representing many of those in amalgamated shires, has written to the Minister recommending that he urgently institute a Commission of Review of the 2007/8 amalgamations.
Mr Johnson said: “We recommended that the government have all costs and savings properly scrutinised and also consider the negative impacts on communities. We asked the Minister to let communities decide by referenda what direction they should take to re-empower their communities to take control of their affairs and cut costs.”
“We have well researched evidence showing that the only solution to council viability is to return councils to their communities.”
Recent research by the University of New England School of Local Government directed by the eminent Professor Dollery, on scale economies pre- and post-amalgamation across all Queensland Councils shows “more councils now experience diseconomies than before – a bad unintended consequence.” “It also shows costs have risen above inflation every year since amalgamation – despite claims of cost savings.”