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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.

A Sustainable Australia

Andrew McNamara, Minister for Sustainability, Climate Change and Innovation, gave an impressive, lucid speech to the Brisbane Institute on the need for sustainable planning within Australia.

McNamara quoted the wise words of Bob Carr in 1997:

“I think people are ready to grasp the argument that the unsustainable growth in population numbers is degrading our planet and that Australia must begin to think of itself as a country with a population problem. Let’s throw away for all time the notion that Australia is an empty space just waiting to be filled up. Our rivers, our soils, our vegetation won’t allow that to happen without an enormous cost to those who come after us.”

Showing he missed Carr’s central point, McNamara went on to say:

The key to achieving a sustainable Australian population in the 21st century is population distribution – adopting policies which encourage and support population growth in areas where it can be supported sustainably, and discouraging it in those places where it can’t.

We hope the Federal Government notes well the plight of our region, with plans by the old Maroochy Shire Council to increase its population by 63% by the year 2020, and acts to prevent such lunacy. Stopping the ill-conceived and environmentally devastating Traveston Dam would be a significant indication of the Government’s good intentions also. Population growth in the already environmentally stressed-to-the limit south east corner of Queensland must be discouraged.

An economic strategy based on reducing population generally across Australia and encouraging same must be prepared – ‘smarter and smaller’ needs to become our catchcry. Increased education and parity of wages for women, removal of baby bonuses, encouraging older people back into the workforce, adequate funds for academic research untied to needs of existing industry in order to create new industries down the track, support for innovative brain-based, non-polluting industries, and more apprenticeships would all help.

The Federal Government might also examine the success of the Noosa strategic plan with its population cap and international recognition by UNESCO with a view to using it as a model for communities across Australia.