Excerpts from interview with MP Rob Pyne and Steve Austin on ABC Radio (16 Feb)

In an interview with Steve Austin on ABC Radio this week (Tue 16 Feb), the Member for Cairns, Rob Pyne again called for an inquiry into local government corruption in Queensland.

In today’s sitting of Parliament Mr. Pyne tabled documents including ‘public interest disclosures’ that make NEW allegations of corrupt conduct, bullying and harassment.

The above documents add to material tabled in December calling for an inquiry into local government. Mr. Pyne, who tabled allegations of  misconduct, corruption and breaches of the Local Government Act (Qld) in October said, “If the material tabled in October and December opened the door on wrongdoing in local government, the material I tabled today should blow the door off its hinges.”

“I have been contacted by numerous residents from across Queensland, who have supported the call for an inquiry into Council corruption. These people have supplied my office with a significant new material.

Mr. Pyne, who in October was joined by Tablelands Residents Jason Ward and Lyn O’Connor in relation to concerns regarding Tablelands Regional Council (TRC), again teamed up with Ward, O’Connor and scores of other Queenslanders concerned about the administration of their local council. Pyne and Ward advised they also met with a number of senior academics concerned with corruption in local government and the appalling treatment of council staff. Council is the heart of local communities. It is often the biggest employer, and where a lot of apprentices and graduates start their careers. Council’s should support community groups, and empower their staff to feel valued, safe and supported. Unfortunately what is happening is often quite the opposite.

Councils owe a duty of care to their staff and the number of people who have been dismissed and damaged because of the bullying and toxic nature of certain councils. Unions are also reporting increased activity in contacts, and increased fear of retribution, without access to a dedicated bullying jurisdiction, as available to most Australia workers under the Fair Work Act.

The CCC has consistently failed to identify and punish wrongdoers and a judicial inquiry should be established, with all the required powers. Transparency and accountability must be a cornerstone of our governance process, and documents I have tabled in our Parliament show this is not the case in Queensland.

In a recent article in the Australian slamming the CCC, Professor Timothy Prenzler said, “The current approach is overly elitist. Ordinary complainants and whistle-blowers are treated dismissively, and the people of Queensland are badly let down. A major restructure is required to ensure optimal legitimacy and effectiveness.” Pyne agrees, saying “Most complaints about Councils are referred back to Councils, so they can investigate themselves. How anyone can defend such a process is beyond me.” Pyne concluded, “There is no politics in this, indeed the councils concerned range across the full spectrum of political leanings. An inquiry without ‘fear or favour’ is required to get to the ‘root of the allegations and identify systemic weaknesses, so remedial action can be taken to ensure accountability and transparency.”

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Complaints process is the broken link for Council Corruption Cases.

MP Rob Pyne

Another Parliament sitting, another tabling of documents with damning evidence around local government corruption and the systemic failures of the complaints processes.’ Rob Pyne MP says.

In December the Deputy Premier spoke in Parliament and wrote to the Member for Cairns setting out the complaints pathway.  “I accept that advice because it is consistent with the advice we provide complaints.  What I am raising is that when people go through those correct pathways the complaints system fails.” said Mr Pyne.

‘The huge groundswell of contacts, emails, phone calls and documents arriving at our office convinces me that things aren’t quite what they seem. And that people are tired of having their voices ignored, and their situations made worse by inequitable decision making.’ Rob says.

‘With the volume and seriousness of the material we now have, it would be naïve of me to believe that they are all submitted incorrectly, and that not one has any issue to respond to in the public interest. It would be negligent if I were to pretend everything was going amazingly well in local government land.’ Rob says.

Mr Pyne explained the documents are again tabled in the Public Interest.  This documentation contains two very important elements. “Firstly, a snapshot of the material my office has received from people in response to being told to go through the proper process.  Some of their responses are shocking however they go to the heart of simply demonstrating the extraordinary lengths complainants have gone through in navigating the complaints processes as well as the financial and personal cost this situation is having in our communities.”

My Pyne further explained that contained in this tabling are two Public Interest Disclosures.  One demonstrates a Councillors experience in the complaints process and the other demonstrates a Council Staff member’s current experience in making an internal complaint through the proper way.  Find the documents here http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/work-of-assembly/tabled-papers/online-tabled-papers ref item 188.

‘If you don’t think things can quickly slip in public life, just check out the current saga in the NSW Auburn Council, where an independent body is currently reviewing decisions and overturning them due to flawed processes. It happens. It’s real. It’s time to step up and make Queensland corruption free.’ Rob urges.

‘So far we’ve tried every reasonable avenue to raise this issue followed by tabling documents in October, December, and now February. There will be more in March if we don’t get relevant and meaningful strategies happening to address this very important matter. We aren’t going away. We can’t. There’s too much at stake.’

It’s a simple fix.

  • Reinstate the independence and resources of the Crime and Corruption Commission to ensure complaints are dealt with,
  • backdate people’s ability to have their cases reviewed by this independent body,
  • do an inquiry into decisions made in local government, the complaints processes and the relevant legislative frameworks to find out exactly what has been going on and how to actually fix it.

Ends.

Media contact – Rob Pyne 0438 360 376     

Lyn O’Connor 0407 736 746 

Cairns Labor MP Rob Pyne raises local govt inquiry again for ‘ignored’ voices

, Queensland political editor for the Brisbane Times reports “Cairns Labor MP Rob Pyne has refused to abandon his crusade to reform how local government complaints are dealt with, breaking party ranks to once again raise the issue in Parliament.”  You can read the article by clicking the link below  ….

http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/cairns-labor-mp-rob-pyne-raises-local-govt-inquiry-again-for-ignored-voices-20160218-gmxzsa.html

QLGRA October 2015 Newsletter.

QLGRA Inc Email Newsletter

 

Hi everyone

Due to time constraints I am resorting to an email newsletter this time around as there are some matters of urgency.  A lot has been happening in QLGRA Inc since the last newsletter. I have listed the items in two categories – firstly items where you OR your group might be interested to undertake or initiate supportive action; secondly items that are of general interest and concern.

 

ITEMS FOR ACTION

  1. SUPPORT FOR ROB PYNE MP.  Recently Rob Pyne MP for Cairns has been quoted in the Brisbane Times 13 October 2015 as follows:

“Labor MP Rob Pyne will demand an inquiry into local government in Queensland, alleging fraud, bullying, nepotism and toxic environments are running rife.

Mr Pyne, a former Cairns Councillor, will use parliamentary privilege to table “explosive allegations” against the Tablelands Regional Council, where residents are to face a 30 per cent rate rise in the 2017/18 year, which Mr Pyne said had been brought to him residents.

Mr Pyne said he had also received complaints regarding other councils and believed a widespread inquiry into local government in Queensland was over due.

“As a result of a number of issues which have been brought to my office by constituents concerning the maladministration and allegedly illegal conduct within their local councils [I am calling for this inquiry],” Mr Pyne said on Tuesday.”

Read more: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/north-queensland-mp-rob-pyne-to-allege-fraud-bullying-in-local-government-20151013-gk8920.html?&utm_source=social&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=nc&eid=socialn:fac-14omn0037-optim-nnn:nonpaid-25062014-social_traffic-all-organicpost-nnn-btimes-o&campaign_code=nocode&promote_channel=social_facebook#ixzz3pJxUo0Ic

The Management Committee of the QLGRA Inc would strongly like to recommend member groups:

  1. read the article in full
  2. forward letters of support to Mr Pyne MP
  3. request that your local MP support Mr Pyne MP in this quest
  4. send copies of items to Amy Remekis the journalist who reported the story.
We think sending him examples of events from local areas across Queensland will help support this worthwhile cause.  Mr Pyne’s contact details are: Electorate Office Postal Address, PO Box 5241, CAIRNS QLD 4870; Phone: (07) 4229 0110  Fax: (07) 4229 0119
Email: cairns@parliament.qld.gov.au

 

  1. YOUR COMMUNITY FIRST MODEL LETTER to councils regarding coming council elections

Ken Park (Strategy Officer) from Caboolture has forwarded a copy of a letter that his group has forwarded to their local council regarding the Council Elections due in March 2016.  This letter makes some good points and the Management Committee recommends that all member groups might like to consider its use in their local area.  Letter is attached above.  (Pdf:MBRCLettertoCEO001.)

 

  1. A NEW MOTTO AND UPDATIING OUR GOALS One of our members has suggested we seek a new motto for the QLGRA Inc – we all agreed. This led to a further discussion about updating the goals of QLGRA Inc. I have attached current QLGRA goals above.

So members, please forward any ideas, suggestions or concerns  you have to joeandjoanna@bigpond.com.   We will be finalising these at the next Management Committee meeting Wednesday November 25th 2015 for recommendation to the members.

 

  1. CODE OF CONDUCT AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT:  One of our members is working on the Local Government Act  and the voluntary Code of Conduct in order to pressure the government for changes that will lead to more democratic and transparent councils.  If you have material that you wish to put forward please forward to joeandjoanna@bigpond.com.

 

 

ITEMS OF INTEREST

  1. The Annual General Meeting was held in Maryborough in August. The meeting was well attended and bought together many of us concerned about local government.  The highlights were many and included the sharing of ideas and a speech from David Horner summarising aspects of the government report into the true costs of de-amalgamation.  The draft minutes (yet to be endorsed) are attached for your information. The following press release was prepared by Astrid Kennedy and Colin Hewett after the meeting.

“Big is NOT always Better

Following successful meetings with the Shadow Minister for Local Government and Local Government department heads to discuss the ongoing failings of Queensland’s amalgamated Councils, Queensland Local Government Reform Alliance (QLGRA) held their Annual General Meeting in Maryborough over the weekend of 29th, 30th August with the enthusiastic participation of their state wide member groups.

The difficulties caused by the forced council amalgamations of 2008 appear to be universal across all areas of Queensland.  The LGAQ, the Local Government Department and the Shadow Minister, Ms. Fiona Simpson, are all aware of the difficulties now being experienced by local communities.  Further meetings are planned with the view of rectifying the failures of the large regional councils including delivery of services and infrastructure to those now forgotten local community areas.

The Minister for Local Government Ms Jackie Trad MP is yet to meet with representatives from QLGRA but executive members are hopeful to engage in constructive discussion in the near future.

Re-elected QLGRA chairman Bob Johnson said “it is encouraging to our state wide member groups to finally be in a position to see the beginnings of pro-active discussions to address the failings of large Councils in the local communities”.  Mr Johnson went on to say “with the upcoming Council elections in March 2016 QLGRA, supported  by its member groups, will be at the forefront of the push to rectify the disastrous impacts suffered by local communities since the now failing amalgamated councils were forced on to the people of Queensland”.

 

 

  1. Meetings with Fiona Simpson MP (Buderim) Shadow Minister for Local Government and Max Barrie (Director, Program Implementation and Review, Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning) were held on August 26 2015.  Bob Johnson, Ken Park, Geoff McKay, Joseph Monsour and Joanna Kesteven attended the meetings.  The meetings were cordial and legitimate concerns were expressed by all parties.  There is an agreement for further meetings. We are hoping to advance the idea that the government initiate an inquiry into local government and review the amalgamations.  The management committee is working on the approach we will take to future meetings.

 

  1. Other Publicity:   Three items of interest to report.  Firstly, Joe Bridgeman from the New Peak Downs Reform Association did a great interview on his local radio. It can be found at: http://blogs.abc.net.au/queensland/2015/10/peak-downs-residents-want-a-return-of-their-old-council.html?site=capricornia&program=capricornia_breakfast.

Secondly a letter from Joanna  to Macca’s Australia All Over was read out in full on Sunday October 11.  It offers to put member groups in contact with Macca to explain the impacts of amalgamation on communities throughout Qld – if you would like to have your local issues raised on Macca’s Australia All Over  please don’t hesitate to request linking.  A sound bite of the event is attached.

 

Thridly, Cliff Thomas from Maryborough reported that a candidate for council election read out the attached speech to the Government organised Community Cabinet held in Maryborough.  This speech is attached:  2015.10MarybroughADdress to Hon Jackie Trad.

 

  1. News from NZ: recently our Chair Bob Johnson participated in a radio interview in NZ effectively promoting that amalgamation is not effective. Cliff Thomas also gave a report at AGM about his recent trip to NZ where the vote to amalgamate councils was soundly defeated:

“Hawke’s Bay voters have overwhelmingly rejected plans to amalgamate the region’s five councils into a single body that would have become the country’s fourth-largest local authority.

The Local Government Commission’s proposal to create a single Hawke’s Bay Council was opposed by about two-thirds of voters who took part in a binding poll that closed at noon on Tuesday.

Electoral officer Warwick Lampp said that, with about 97 per cent of the vote counted on Tuesday afternoon, 66.2 per cent were against the amalgamation proposal, and 33.5 per cent were in favour.”

http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/72054293/hawkes-bay-voters-reject-fivecouncil-amalgamation-proposal

 

  1. QLGRA Supporter against State Government  4 year terms.  One of our supporters is very concerned about the current discussion to implement 4 yearly terms for the state government. He is interested to hear from anyone who has similar concerns. If you wish to be connected with John, please let me know and I will pass on your details.

 

  1. Water Grab: Another member has drawn to our attention an article in the Courier Mail where Water Minister Mark Bailey floated the idea of water privatisation models.  After the experience of members in areas where there is amalgamated water supplies this is of deep concern.  Please read the above article.

 

  1. Websites of interest:

 

  1. Regional Round Ups:  Here are just some of the events of interest from around Queensland:
    • Childers Victory – ( previously the Isis Shire) reported that recently the Bundaberg Regional Council attempted to remove divisional voting which would have caused even further difficulty for the outlying towns. This was roundly rejected by the Boundaries Commissioner after many submissions from those affected. Encouragingly, it was rejected quickly too. Work into stopping the move came from several outlying towns around Bundaberg.
    • Whitsunday Regional Ratepayers Association Inc also reported that moves to change their council boundaries which would reduce the representation from the northern areas of the shire were also rejected by the Boundaries Commissioner.
    • Unity Water at it again – Unity Water (another sad creation of the 2008 amalgamation process)  is now accepting toxic water from a CSG Plant in NSW. “ Kyogle GAG member Johanna Evans said the waste water from AGL’s Gloucester wells had been rejected by several NSW contractors because they did not have the facilities to deal with it. She said Toxfree had been contracted to transport the waste all the way to Narangba in Brisbane.” http://www.echo.net.au/2015/08/gas-activists-target-toxic-tankers/.   Unitywater  operates the former water assets of the Moreton Bay Regional Council which chooses not to have either its mayor or councillors sit on the Board.

 

Regards,

 

 

Joanna Kesteven

Secretary QLGRA Inc

Phone: 07 54635304

Mobile: 0413 242 893

32 Panorama Drive, Roadvale 4310

 

NSW Council amalgamation report ‘awash with errors’

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on 25th January 2016 that the NSW state government is facing a black hole of tens of millions of dollars in its costings of forced council amalgamations as the result of a KPMG report which has been described as being “awash with errors”.   Professor Brian Dollery, the director of the University of New England’s centre for local government, described the report as being “awash with errors”.

Listen to the report and read the SMH article by clicking on the link.  http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/council-amalgamation-report-awash-with-errors-20160124-gmcsri.html

Council amalgamations: NSW Premier Mike Baird sets out the path to fewer councils

Sydney Morning Herald article of 18 December 2015 tells us that NSW Premier, Mike Baird has staked his political authority on a radical overhaul of the state’s councils, but the Premier is already facing headwinds from opponents within parliament and across councils.

More than a quarter of NSW’s 152 councils would be cut – most of them in Sydney – under long-awaited plans unveiled by the state government on Friday.  To hear the interview and read article click on the link below…….

http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/council-amalgamations-mike-baird-sets-out-the-path-to-fewer-councils-20151218-glr6hy.html