Beattie is back to waste your money again!

In 2007, Peter Beattie’s Queensland state Labor government demanded that the number of the state’s local authorities be reduced from 156 to 72, claiming that Treasury had found that a number of small councils, particularly in rural areas, were financially weak and unsustainable.

It was argued at the time that amalgamating local authorities into super-councils would streamline services and operations, lead to greater efficiencies and ultimately result in overall cost savings for ratepayers.

However, many Queenslanders, who formed action groups and rallied public support against the amalgamations, strenuously resisted the Beattie government’s policy.

Premier Beattie threatened any council with instant dismissal if it held a referendum on the issue. The Howard federal government allowed referenda to be held, which resulted in resounding votes against amalgamation. Beattie pressed on regardless.

Liberal National Party (LNP) members used the Queensland public’s disenchantment with the issue to shore up their support in rural and regional areas. Before the March 2012 state election, they promised to reverse the amalgamations if elected to government.

However, on coming to power, the Campbell Newman’s LNP government settled for a far more limited rollback and subsequently, only four shires are now enjoying a return to their former boundaries.

Many other local areas have been denied that opportunity and now face increasing rates and lowered services.

The case for de-amalgamation is based on good fiscal sense.

Robert L. Bish is professor emeritus at the University of Victoria (British Columbia, Canada). He was co-director of the Local Government Institute from its establishment in 1995 until 2002. In 2001, he produced a research paper on local government amalgamations for Toronto’s conservative C.D. Howe Institute. His study concluded, “forced amalgamations are the product of flawed nineteenth-century thinking and a bureaucratic desire for centralised control”.

Professor Bish argued that the inflated municipal authorities resulting from amalgamations were unsuitable to the need for society to adapt readily to rapid change. Moreover, establishing super-councils would not lead to cost efficiencies, but rather to cost increases, inferior service and less accountability, as ratepayers became increasingly distanced from local authority.

In Qld recently, the Queensland Treasury Corporation has released details of its Audit into Whitsunday Regional Council and have found that it is in debt to the tune of 87 million dollars.

The QTC said that Whitsunday Council would have gone broke last month if it had not been provided $20M in emergency funding from the Queensland Government.

Mayor Whitney told ABC Tropical that Council were looking at selling off assets to help repay its debts; “We have some vacant land, we have caravan parks….” many believe that the sale of Proserpine Airport may be back on the agenda.

Water and Sewage charges are to also rise by 9%.

Whitsunday Council’s debt would be incurring interest charges of around $4,732,800/year at 5.44%, which is $323.93 per year for every household.

Whitsunday Council’s Debt equals:

$2,481.11 for every man, woman & child living in the Whitsundays; $5,954.66 for every household; that is 9%-10% of what every household in the Whitsundays will earn as a wage/salary this year.

Academics such as Professor Brian Dollery of UNE, can confirm that no council amalgamation has ever resulted in cost savings – however the reverse has been the case in every instance.

This is what Mr. Beattie has done to Qld in the name of creating more efficiency and greater economy! Now he seeks election in Forde and who knows where his centralist philosophy will take us if he succeeds.

I doubt whether the people of Forde will be fooled by his doublespeak however just in case this may just serve as a timely warning.

Southern Downs Mayor backs away from Amalgamation philosophy

It seems that the  philosophy used to justify wholesale amalgamations in recent times, has not passed the practicality test. Not that its opponents in QLGRA and in other organisations were in any doubt about it. They have long maintained that forcibly amalgamated local governments would be more expensive to run and now one of the Mayors enduring the post amalgamation stress is agreeing that the touted economic benefits of amalgamation were ‘debatable at best.’ Faced with mushrooming costs and preparing to deliver an unpopular budget to ratepayers, it is not surprising that he is looking to shift blame.

This is the same Mayor who boasted about the amalgamated local area having a greater capacity to garner loans. It would seem that he has found that reducing the voices of local governments in Qld has weakened everyone’s position. The deal with the devil has not been to his liking it seems.

Meanwhile proponents of fairer access to boundary alterations for local governments in Qld, continue to join with the QLGRA. So we gather momentum as more people realise that bigger is not better and in fact is increasingly more expensive, less responsive and undemocratic as the closest government to the people slips even further into the hands of systems and bureaucrats and completely out of the influence of the citizens it is supposed to serve.


Mary Rofe