The biggest loser

Would have to be the Labor Party in Queensland. The low number of voters – just 70% – presenting at the compulsory Regional Council polls attested to the lack of enthusiasm Queenslanders had for the forced amalgamations. It would be interesting to know how many voters only voted out of fear of losing representation. Along with the distinctive results from last year’s plebiscite, the abysmal turnout supports the view that amalgamation was not endorsed by the people, and neither did the people give the government a mandate to betray their will with forced amalgamations.

In Brisbane, the Libs picked up 6 Council seats, whilst in Townsville, long term ALP mayor Tony Mooney lost his position to Thuringowra mayor, Les Tyrell.

Captain Bligh boasted about the hard decisions made to produce “larger, better equipped councils in place across all our major regions”. Better equipped to charge us higher rates and to carry out unilateral armslength State decrees in defiance of resounding public dissent is our cynical reaction.

Sunset at Boreen Point

Despite the present State Government’s South East Queensland Regional Plan and Infrastructure Plan and claims that the State government wishes to slow development on the coast of South East Queensland and move population to Beaudesert and Mt. Lindsay, our Sunshine Coast region’s concept of sustainability, determined as Bob Abbot envisages through community consultative processes well known to Noosa residents, may clash with the State’s vision to which our new super Council must defer, given that there is still no Federal legal recognition of local government. The Sunshine Coast and other regions which desire and plan for more realistic and truly sustainable development and population caps with majority support from their electors and which had opposed amalgamation can still be overridden by the State. The States can also argue for Federal support on the basis outlined by Andrew McNamara, Minister for Sustainability, Climate Change and Innovation, when he supported population distribution omitting to mention the addition of a more sensible, palatable and sustainable federal policy of negative population growth with a truly innovative economic strategy to match. Rudd has thrown his national condom out the window as well.

Regardless of the warm, fuzzy wording of the SEQRPIP, the travesty of Traveston Dam has already provided a clear example of the State Government sacrificing the environment and existing landholders for the “greater good of Queensland” … in other words, the good of those requiring development at the expense of irreplaceable natural habitat and communities.

As Captain Bligh called her new lieutenants to a Brisbane summit, Bob Abbot expressed similar suspicions about Bligh’s real agenda:

“I’ve got a great fear that the next attack on local government will be in the planning sphere and I think they (state government) need to look very closely at what the communities are saying about how they want to be managed in the future as regards to development,” he told a Brisbane newspaper.

“Any further attack on local government in the development sphere would create another Gold Coast highway koala corridor type fiasco for the government – and would bring them down.”

Centralised decision-making may facilitate government planning aligned with big money, yet a government markedly out of step with its constituents could pay a high price at the next State election. Big Bob, with 70% of the Sunshine Coast vote has a clear mandate for sustainability. Perhaps Captain Bligh is counting on voters forgetting her and Beattie’s attack on democracy by then, yet Howard’s end was largely due to his deafness to the voice of the people, from his outrageous disregard of public feeling against his draconian no choice work laws, his ignorance of the realities of climate change to his pandering to Bush with the disgraceful war on Iraq.

When politicians step above their role as servants of the people, the people whom they are elected to represent will teach them humility.

To vote or not to vote

Our beautiful village, PomonaWhat choice do we have? civil disobedience – in this case opting out of the electoral process – is seen by some as the last resort for people whose vehement, legitimate wishes been ignored, where democracy has been abandoned in the push for political outcomes which may prove disastrous and which have been imposed through nefarious deception. Others have joined the Noosa Liberation Army who today took responsibility for defacing roadside election posters:

“Noosa will secede or de-amalgamate,” an email read. “It’s just a matter of time! Those who think that this fight can be won without conflict are seriously deluded. This is a war, and we will win, however long it takes.”

Voting in the grandiosely named Sunshine Coast Regional Council Quadrennial Elections is compulsory under the state Local Government Act 1993. We, the governed, might argue we are voting for representatives in an illegitimate body which does not as yet exist, and that this flawed representation was proclaimed without the consent and against the wishes of the electorate.

There is no question that the people of Noosa Shire do not want amalgamation – we have been polled numerous times about this, the last plebiscite being 96% against it.

Yet if the people of Noosa do not vote, we run the terrible risk of having pro-development Joe Natoli for mayor and reduced representation for Noosa. Regardless of the new super council, State ‘iconic’ legislation provides that development decisions will be made in Brisbane, far from those who are affected and live here. Noosa’s say in its own future at present is nobbled … reduced back to vocal community groups, some of which are banding together under the Noosa Biosphere Association.

Local governments are not defined in the Australian Constitution – they are creations of their respective States. Regionalisation and amalgamation are State controlled and designated. Under the Australian Constitution, States and Territories are the only legal representative entities recognised by the Commonwealth. The present Queensland Government was elected by us, and it can thereafter do what it likes till we vote it out.

Naturally we have thought long and hard about the bigger picture when appealing to the Federal government. Although Kevvie has been approached about the undemocratic actions of the Queensland government by disgruntled Noosa residents amongst members of many such alarmed Queensland communities, and though neither he nor Julia personally supported forced amalgamations, we believe Rudd has a definite goal in mind, to form an Australian republic. With some historical vanity, he would like to be the engineer and steward of its formation. At present, for him it may be prudent to avoid a bun fight about the delineation of Federal and State powers under the existing Constitution, and so he is staying out of the fray, to the detriment of both Noosa residents and the upholding of representative democracy on a community level generally in our State.

Once regionalisation is complete throughout Australia, what need will there be for States? The footballers may not like it, but Brisbane can still play Sydney.

Except for alienated, infuriated folks, people will start identifying with their respective regions. The Sunshine Coast will play Brisbane as usual in soccer. Then the stage will be set for further reorganisation of decision-making and responsibilities.

In the interim, what happens if there is a change of government in Queensland or nationally? What power will we in our communities have had usurped from us, and passed into the mitts of an even more despicable, aggrandising mob?

Perhaps Noosa will be protected by iconic legislation for long enough for a republic to emerge, where the rights of individuals might be defined in such a way to protect the environments in which they live as well. Pigs might fly too. Despite Australians being typical disinterested in politics (is politics an acceptable dinner conversation topic yet?), it is essential that we are engaged in the republic debate, otherwise whilst we attend our barbies and down a few beers, we may get the sort of republic we really don’t want.

Grassroots democracy can be an annoyance and sometimes a threat to the feds who like things nice and tidy in Canberra. They’d rather be at lunch or off on a nice junket. Centralised governments who do not respond to vocal communities can be willing to sacrifice happy constituents and healthy environments at the beck and call of the rich and powerful who desire progress at any cost.

Recognised internationally with UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve, Noosa, with its achievements in sustainability and community democracy could serve as a model for communities in the new Republic of Australia. It is up to all Australians to reflect upon the choices before them, and speak out to protect our children’s future and the environment which sustains us all.