The Council elections have now come and gone as well. At the State elections in March, Queenslanders voted overwhelmingly for change. Queenslanders also voted overwhelmingly against mud-slinging and personal attacks. Some of that desire for change has continued into the Council elections. Of the 72 Councils in Queensland, around 40 will have new mayors. 11 of these new mayors replaced mayors who had stepped down, and about 30 mayors were defeated. This is by far the largest turnover of mayors in Queensland’s history.
Here in Moreton Bay Regional Council though, that desire for change and that rejection of mudslinging that was so apparent in the March State elections, seems to have evaporated. The mayor is back along with virtually all the councillors. The only councillor who lost was Cr Rae Frawley in Division 6. This is a little surprising as she is acknowledged to have been one of the better informed councillors and one of the more effective.
So why has there been so little change? Does this indicate satisfaction with the incumbent council? Does it indicate an acceptance of mudslinging and personal attacks as an acceptable way of campaigning? Does it indicate a lack of quality challengers? Does it indicate a lack of interest by the voting public? Or is because of something else?
“Voter fatigue” due to the extended State election campaign and the closeness in time of the State and Council elections must be high on the list of reasons for the lack of change and the preservation of the status-quo. Brisbane City Council’s Mayor Quirke commented repeatedly through the campaign how difficult it was to create voter interest in any discussion of the issues facing Council. Such a lack of discussion of issues, or even voter interest in issues, always makes it easier for incumbents. The weather must also have dampened enthusiasm and kept people away. The voter turnout of just over 80% in MBRC is one of the lowest on record. But the biggest impact was probably the involvement of the LNP across much of MBRC. The Party ensured the faithful came out to vote. The mayor was greatly helped by the support of the Premier. Here on Bribie Island, the local LNP member gave very strong support to the sitting councilor in the run-up to the election and on election day. The LNP also supplied very visible equipment in support as shown in this picture sent to MBI. Nothing wrong or illegal in all of that. That’s what political parties do to support their candidate. But such support makes quite a farce of the claims by those councilors to be “independent”.
So what does this election result mean for MBRC? During the campaign, many issues were consistently raised by candidates and by various blogs. These included: the loss by Council of ratepayer trust; fiscal irresponsibility with the decline of $200 million in MBRC reserves; Council secrecy with one candidate even commenting that he had to resort to Freedom of Information requests to obtain financial statements from Council; lack of maintenance on essential infrastructure at the same time as money is wasted on low value projects; environmental irresponsibility with the continued decline of environment and quality-of-living in many areas (for example, it was acknowledged that Moreton Bay is the most downgraded waterway in Australia and is getting worse every year); a lack of any vision of the future; and the use of UnityWater as a back-door means of raising taxes to name just a few. With virtually no changes occurring at Council as result of the election, it is unlikely there will be any action on these issues. As one commentator put it, the focus will continue to be on growth and development with only minimal consideration of the consequences.
And what does this mean for Division 1 and Bribie Island? During the campaign, many of the same issues as outlined above, as well as some issues specific to Bribie, were consistently raised by candidates and blogs. These Bribie-specific issues included: the decline in property values; the difficult business conditions; the lack of support for the tourist industry; the impact of increased volumes of sewage being brought onto Bribie for treatment and disposal; the massive de-vegetation that has occurred over the last four years; ongoing erosion on both sides of the island and the impact of this on property values, tourism, and quality-of-life; unwillingness of Council to consult with and/or work with community groups; and waste of funds on works of little value. Given the lack of change in Council, it is unlikely that these issues will be addressed by the new Council either. The continued focus for Bribie is most likely to also be on encouraging growth with little regard for the consequences and little regard for the wishes of affected Bribie residents. This includes growth in population, growth in visitors to Bribie, and upgrading of infrastructure to accommodate that growth. Impediments to that growth are likely to be quickly dealt with at Council or State level. The massive devegetation and tree clearing by MBRC that has occurred over the last few years is likely to continue as shown in these photos sent to MBI just days after the Council elections. There is unlikely to be any action either on the considerable illegal devegetation that has been occurring. And the ongoing erosion and downgrading of the beaches on both sides of Bribie is not likely to receive much attention and further deterioration in property values is likely to occur as a result.
And what does this mean for MyBribieIsland? MBI was created to focus attention on areas such as business, social, environmental and governance issues as they relate to Bribie. Now that the elections are over for the time being, MBI will be able to devote more time to covering those other issues in future postings.
Please check back to MBI from time to time as those issues are covered.