Press Statements & Letters

Latest Media Release – June 2017

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.
ICAC NOW!

Colin Hewett
Chair.

—————————————————-

‘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.

November / December 2013 Newsletter

Link to Conference Papers

NOOSA 2

len head

OPEN LETTER TO PREMIER CAMPBELL NEWMAN

1 January 2014

Dear Premier

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.

Yours faithfully

Len Thomas
Independent Candidate for Redcliffe

Len Thomas’ website link here

November 13

‘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….”

 read more here

NOVEMBER 9 2013

FOUR SHIRES RECEIVED DEMOCRACY – WHY NOT ALL?

NOOSA 1 NOOSA 2 NOOSA 3

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.”

September 2013

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.”

August 2013

 3/8/13 Letter to Premier (link opens in new window)

July 2013

After the inaugural Meeting of the QLGRA held in Toowoomba on Saturday 13 July 2013 the Chairman Bob Johnson, made the following statement:

“QUEENSLAND’S NEW STATEWIDE GROUP SEEKING JUSTICE FOR LOCAL COMMUNITIES CHEATED BY COUNCIL MERGERS HAS NOW BEEN FORMALISED”

Bob Johnson, elected Chairman of the now fully constituted Queensland Local Government Reform Alliance at the inaugural general meeting of members on 13thJuly 2013, said today the LNP Government must recognise its failure to allow local communities a voice.
He said the Alliance is calling the LNP to “get back on track” by allowing local communities redress through discussion and referenda.
The formalisation of the group in Toowoomba was attended physically and through video conferencing by Community and De-merger organisations from South West, South East, Central and North Queensland and a committee was elected consisting of representatives from across the state. The Alliance calls upon the LNP Government, whose members previously opposed the forced amalgamations, to carry out their election promise to put local government back on track. They should give communities a voice through discussion with the Alliance and referenda.
“The government” Mr Johnson said “put a process in place that denied Queenslanders natural justice. It disallowed many former council areas a chance to re-establish their local communities, or to seek boundary changes. Only four were allowed to de-merge, despite 19 having applied. Many more would have applied had the process been fair. On the evidence there appears to be a serious breach of natural justice.”
Speaking about the new group Mr Johnson said: “The new Alliance, open to all local community groups, will advocate at state level until the Beattie government’s failed amalgamation process is properly addressed, and corrected, allowing viable local councils seeking demerger to be restored, and others allowed to re-draw boundaries, and otherwise to restore community representation and re-empower communities. All communities are suffering under high rates / low service regimes, increasing council debt levels, lost council representation and loss of sense of community.”
“All evidence proves beyond doubt that BIGGER IS NOT BETTER and will never be, when applied to local and regional councils. The amalgamation process was supposed to reduce the burden for communities. The reverse is true. Amalgamation was supposed to enable councils to better deal with costs associated with natural disasters. This has also proven to be a furphy in the recent natural disasters.The promised savings have not eventuated.
To quote Professor Brian Dollery head of the UNE School of Local Government, “There is no relationship between population size and per capita cost”
And I quote Professor Prasser, Professor of Public Policy at the Canberra Australian Catholic University,

“Do not look on the Federal government as the saviour of Local Government. Once Federal Government gets involved it’s about control. Its about regulation. It’s about bureaucracy bearing down on you.”

He suggested that the starting point for change is in State Constitutions. There is “an increasing trend for centralisation…but ONE SIZE FITS ALL IS VERY INAPPROPRIATE”

Mayor Antonio of Toowoomba Regional Council is quoted as stating, “The loss of identity has been a serious problem, a very serious problem.”
The burden of amalgamation and the dis-economies of scale from centralisation continue to plague communities. Amalgamation was all about centralisation by stealth. We are requesting to be allowed to decentralise or demerge or otherwise reverse this abominable crime against democracy.
The Alliance is gaining momentum in Qld and there is interest in NSW. The Alliance will campaign for all council areas requesting it, to have a referendum to re-draw local government boundaries, to restore and re-empower communities.
For more information contact Secretary J. Kesteven on (07)5463 5304 or Chairman Bob Johnson on 0432 950 645. Or check the website http://www.qlgralliance.org.au,
And see the e-petition on the Queensland Parliamentary link
http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/work-­‐of-­‐assembly/petitions/e-­‐petition?PetNum=2112

 

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One thought on “Press Statements & Letters

  1. @ Noel Playford as Mayor – here is what he had to say February last year – rings very true now!
    FREE NOOSA UPDATE February 25, 2013-02-25
    Hi all,
    When we vote YES on Saturday week, it will be no thanks to the Council and Mayor we still have to call “ours” for a while longer. Nor will we wish to thank the Boundaries Commissioner, who will shortly be authorising disgraceful radio ads and sending a letter to all voters.
    I have listened to radio ads destined for Douglas, and they are not just ads advising people that voting is compulsory. That’s the Electoral Commission’s job anyway. They are really ads to tell people once again that de-amalgamation will cost them $8.1 million in the case of Douglas.
    So we can soon expect radio ads with $13.6 million featured, and the proposed letter will almost certainly repeat incorrect financial figures. In other words, they are part of an ongoing attempt to try to maximise the NO vote.
    If anyone thinks I’m exaggerating when I say the Boundaries Commissioner has no right to peddle this material as fact, have a look at page 33 of the QTC report. The QTC are not prepared to stand by their figures, because they could not verify the information they were required to number crunch. Considering a lot of it came from the Sunshine Coast Council, we should not be surprised.
    The QTC statement reads “QTC has not verified the information supplied to it and accordingly does not represent that the information contained in the Report is accurate or complete and it should not be relied upon as such.”
    Can’t be any clearer than that. Put it another way, they are saying if the information they had to rely on was wrong, their estimates will be wrong. And they know now that some of the information provided by the Sunshine Coast Regional Council was wrong.
    So we have public money being spent to try to influence the outcome of polls in different parts of Queensland by touting information that the authors can’t say is correct. And yet we have people like the Minister, Boundaries Commissioner and our Mayor saying all the QTC figures are correct. Seems a bit like a concerted campaign from the big end of town to me.
    Residents probably understand that the choice is to believe local government professionals who live here and are prepared to put their reputation on the line, or outsiders with no responsibility to local people but with a vested interest in the status quo.
    Please forward this update on, so more people will recognise this latest campaign for what it is.
    On a positive note, the enthusiasm for getting our local council back is infectious. So many people are motivated to help, but there aren’t jobs for everyone who volunteered. But remember, everyone can help by finding someone who is undecided and helping them to join the winning side.
    Cheers
    Noel Playford

    Like

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