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.