Sunday, October 26, 2008


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Friday, April 25, 2008

Support for Alternative Newspaper?

Several people have expressed interest in the establishment of an alternative newspaper to service the Fraser Coast area... a "good news" paper where the front page headlines are not scandal, crime, violence or Nancy's pet promotion of the month.

Early suggestions for such a newspaper include...
  • Bringing a genuinely independent viewpoint on major events happening within our community
  • Providing a special focus on educational issues and employment creation
  • Allowing all candidates in political contests to freely express their opinion on an equal basis
  • Encouraging community groups and not-for-profit organisations to submit newsworthy items, meeting notes and date-claimers
  • Actively pursuing positive, wholesome news items
  • Being pro-family, pro-good values, rather than constantly promoting "alternative" lifestyles,
  • And not competing with the existing printed media as a source for turf guides, horoscope and Dear Aunty trash, and adults-only dating and related advertising.

Any further ideas or thoughts?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Reaction to Previous Blog

Thank you to those who wrote or telephoned supporting the comments I made in my previous blog.

I certainly do not regret anything I wrote leading up to the election, however the bitterness and toxicity of the reactions of a few who felt aggrieved by my views did surprise me a little. I guess accountability and integrity are just irritating words to them. For the information of a few of their friends, I've pulled the knives out of my back and life will go on whether they approve or otherwise.

Turning to the outcome of the election, democracy is a strange invention at times, but democracy Beattie-style is a very curious thing indeed.

It is interesting to note that only one candidate elected to represent us on the Fraser Coast Regional Council achieved more than 50% of the eligible vote.

In fact, on the latest figures posted on the Queensland Electoral Commission website (7/04/2008) for the Mayoral contest, over 56% of eligible voters either said "No" to the successful candidate or were so disinterested that they either forgot to vote, refused to vote or deliberately wasted their vote. Hardly a mandate to get excited about.

For those interested in where all this is headed, the result in some ways mirrors the last State Election held on 9 September 2006, when the ALP managed to secure 59 of the 89 seats (or 66% of the seats), with only 46.92% of the vote.

Some of us are old enough to remember the journalists and Labor hacks who constantly proclaimed the evils of "The Gerrymander" when electoral weightage protected regional, rural and remote areas of the state from the excesses of city-centric government.

Anyone needing a hospital in Maryborough lately, or driving regularly between Hervey Bay and Brisbane, will confirm we simply are not getting our share of funding despite the protestations of Labor sympathisers or our completely ineffective Members of State Parliament. Labor is treating voters outside of the Noosa-Ipswich-Gold Coast triangle with contempt.

On this occasion the outcome was heavily influenced by a natural fear of isolation and disenfranchisement and certainly does not reflect the respective abilities of many of the candidates. Time will tell which ones will be re-elected and which ones will be flushed away when voters have had more time to think things through.

Successful Councillors - Declared Results Summary

Electors at Close of Roll: 61,959
Last Updated Date/Time: 26/03/2008 12:43:38 pm
Percentage of Roll Counted: 87.02%

HOVARD, Barbara 31,705
HAWES, Debbie 29,385
ARTHUR, Julie Ann 27,804
HARRIS, Linda 26,480
McNEVEN, Belinda 25,270
NIOA, Anne 24,431
MUCKAN, Les 24,017
BROOKS, Sue 23,930
O'CONNELL, Gerard Daniel 23,787
DALGLEISH, David 23,159

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Think Again

With all the mud flying from the local newspaper and the constant attacks on anyone prepared to speak up or question the lop-sided journalism of that publication, more and more people are clicking on "the blogs" looking for information and ideas. Long live freedom of speech!

My recommendation remains: "TA", not "JA". Think Again! Don't donkey vote or run with the names you perhaps first think of.

We have candidates out there trumpeting their own virtues, spending a mint on glossy fliers, coreflutes and bus advertising, but my vote is not for sale.

The track record of some of these people suggests, if elected, they will sit on the new council doing exactly the same as they have done for the last "x" number of years. While Beattie's Labor government was busy stripping Maryborough's largest medical facility of most of its equipment and senior staff, where was "JA" and her mate "GO'C"?

"JA" and some very prominent doctors in this town sat silent for years not breathing a word to anyone. Indeed, most of our civic notables, from the Mayor down to the most silent of her colleagues, did virtually nothing to stop Maryborough losing essential infrastructure.

"GO'C" has been running around grabbing Chronicle photoshoots ever since he was elected, and was one of the first to sing the virtures of forced amalgamation. Perhaps this was his way of feeling good about doing nothing of any substance to stop the drift of services to the Bay?

So before you rush out to return "JA", "GO'C" and other sitting councillors to even plusher pastures, Think Again!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Ten Suggestions for a Balanced Council

Seems everyone is struggling to come up with ten names to mark on Saturday for people to serve as Councillors on the new Fraser Coast Regional Council.

Everyone has different ideas, of course, but for me the first task, on thinking it all over again, was to cross off sitting Councillors whom I felt were either past their "use-by date" or who had not demonstrated a willingness to genuinely represent their constituents or to speak up on important issues.

Next came those whom I felt were too eager to follow a political agenda when the State government decided to force through the Amalgamation issue, or who clearly do not understand their responsibility to be fully accountable to the community. Some pretty big names disappeared here, but that is the nature of politics. Even the Prime Minister had to go in the end.

I then eliminated a couple of candidates whom I did not personally know, along with a few that I felt were insufficiently prepared for the role or about whom too little was known for the average voter to make a properly informed decision. Then another few whom I felt were "in it" for themselves and not for the good of the community.

Trying to find at least five people from the remaining candidates that did not live in or have dominant affiliations with Hervey Bay proved the most difficult criteria of all, so I looked for a balance of experience and fresh ideas, for candidates whom I believed had empathy for a wide cross-section of people, and for people I believed could make a strong contribution to the future of our region.

The following ten candidates are listed in the order they will appear on the ballot paper.

Gary Jensen - Maryborough businessman and farmer (Fresh blood)
Roger Michael Currie - Well known conservationist (A sharp mind and an independent viewpoint to keep debate open)
Peter Souvlis - Maryborough identity with strong business links in both Maryborough and Hervey Bay (Fresh blood)
John Alan Kingston - Somewhat grumpy, former Maryborough councillor and MP (Keen intellect and a wealth of experience to contribute)
Darren Dickson - Maryborough Meals on Wheels CEO (Hands-on experience and understanding of issues affecting older citizens)
Ernie Paussa - Former journalist (Perhaps a late learner, but someone who understands the media)
Darryl George Stewart - Serving Tiaro councillor (Solid understanding of rural issues, articulate and passionate, and a vocal critic of the Traveston Dam)
Trevor McDonald - Experienced Hervey Bay councillor, intelligent, supportive of community projects
Troy Sullivan - My wildcard entry - Young, and closely involved with youth
Sue Brooks - Experienced Hervey Bay councillor, intelligent, environmentally aware

This team includes three experienced councillors and a former councillor (two from Hervey Bay and two from the other three shires), and six fresh faces to bring new ideas to the table and to break the stale mould of local government that has shackled the growth of Maryborough, distorted the growth of Hervey Bay, and overlooked the needs of the smaller communities within our shires.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Fraser Coast Regional Council Elections 2008

In less than a week we will vote again, this time for a mayor and ten councillors to form the new Fraser Coast Regional Council. Five candidates for mayor, 29 for councillor, and all without electoral divisions.

Not too daunting, if you know most of them and have been keeping your eyes and ears to the ground over the last few months?

But what if the dominant local newspaper seems "hell-bent" on promoting the editor's favourites and starving other candidates of political oxygen? Remember Peter Huth and Chris Foley in 2003? Everybody else was a "wanna-be" or "unsuitable for the task".

Or what if that local newspaper seems to regularly print only one side of a story, or frequently displays editorial prejudice or lack of impartiality? Think Amalgamation. Think Wide Bay Water. Think Strewth! Try

Merging four shires' individualities and unique qualities into one was always going to be an interesting exercise, whether or not we agreed that it was even necessary in the first place, but finding ten suitable people to form the first super council, plus an impartial and honest person to serve as mayor, when the average citizen probably does not know any more than about half the nominees is going to mean a lot of spoiled ballot papers on the day.

But before we go looking for our ten, what are we actually looking for?

Perhaps a selection of candidates with some of the following qualities would give us a good blend of skills and talents with which to forge this new alliance of shires:

  • Demonstrated business accumen and understanding of financial prudence (and not just a piece of paper with some academic qualification noted),
  • An understanding of pressing environmental issues,
  • A blend of Local Government experience and fresh ideas,
  • Depth of knowledge of local issues,
  • An understanding of rural issues and challenges,
  • A genuine empathy for community groups (not just fete attenders and monument builders),
  • An ability to think independently, rather than simply following the mob or a Party line,
  • Intellectual capacity (Some of the candidates are having great difficulty in stringing ten words together and have no idea that spelling and punctuation are still important prerequisites to a professional career)... And, most critically,
  • A willingness to be both transparent and accountable to the public for their actions.

I'm sure you have crossed quite a few candidates off already. "Seventeen years on Council" but without a thing to show for it except plaques all over town, does not make a person fit to be re-elected. Nor does attending every fete in town, but betraying the community groups that have supported you, establish the bonafides of trust necessary to expect continued support from a disappointed public.

Let us start with the candidates for Councillor...

Here is the list advised by the ECQ (Electoral Commission Queensland), in the order they will appear on the ballot paper:

  • McNEVEN, Belinda
  • OLUJIC, Richard
  • HAWES, Debbie
  • FELTON, Russell
  • JENSEN, Gary
  • BANKS, Brendon Arthur
  • O'CONNELL, Gerard Daniel
  • CURRIE, Roger Michael
  • SOUVLIS, Peter
  • KINGSTON, John Alan
  • DICKSON, Darren
  • HARRIS, Linda
  • MUCKAN, Les
  • PHILIPPI, Walter
  • PAUSSA, Ernie
  • HANSEN, James
  • ARTHUR, Julie Ann
  • STEWART, Darryl George
  • HOVARD, Barbara
  • DALGLEISH, David
  • NIOA, Anne
  • SMITH, Kevin
  • McDONALD, Trevor
  • SULLIVAN, Troy
  • HUNTER, Allen
  • BROOKS, Sue
  • KUHN, Shayne

One of the great problems we face in finding the right blend of people is making sure that outlying areas are not forgotten post-15 March. With the population dominance of Hervey Bay it could be very difficult for the present Shires of Woocoo and Tiaro to have any sort of representation at all on the new Council. (It is interesting that four of the five mayoral candidates come from Hervey Bay.)

Ideally, we need at least five councillors from outside Hervey Bay, plus a fair mayor as chairman, to ensure balance in decision making from the new council, or at the very least, people who have demonstrated an empathy for a broader constituency than just the coastal city. Voting proportionately favouring the city of Hervey Bay as some have advocated as "fair" will simply ensure little or no representation for ratepayers from the present Tiaro and Woocoo Shires.

And we need at least five honest people, plus a completely impartial and balanced mayor, to have a workable council that will listen to the needs of the community and act on behalf of ratepayers without selling out to property developers or other sectional interests.

The Labor government had its own agenda in forcibly restructuring local government in Queensland, so perhaps the first candidates for thinking people to eliminate are the two who have supported the government from the outset... Gerard O'Connell and Belinda McNevin. These two are clearly Labor Party idealogues (stooges, if you like) prepared to do whatever the State Labor Party wants them to do, even if is against the wishes of the majority of their constituents. Good looks and youthful charm do not make up for being either gullible or ignoring the wishes of people.

And while you have your pencils out, cross off the two candidates presently serving on the Woocoo Shire Council who have betrayed their ratepayers by rushing out to fill up the pockets of their former mate and CEO before an independent abitrator could look at all the facts and hand down a fair judgement. These people need to understand we want them to work for us not their grubby little mates. (It is interesting that the only two Councillors who reportedly voted against paying out Joe Hill have both decided not to run for the new Council.)

You can also cross off the present councillors boasting about all their years of service when, in reality, they have little to show for all their meeting fees other than an assortment of plaques scattered around their neighbourhood from some official opening of someone else's achievement or of a public monument of dubious value. Sitting on all sorts of committees and never making decisions, or hiding the decisions that were made, does not qualify a person for election or re-election to public office.

On the other hand, there are several candidates whom I would think would be "must haves", because of the depth of wisdom and knowledge that they could contribute to the new council. Here we would immediately think of Dr John Kingston, the former Maryborough City Councillor, turned One Nation MP, turned Independent MP for the State Seat of Maryborough.

Another would be present Hervey Bay Councillor Sue Brooks, frequently on the outer with her present colleagues for her willingness to listen to the public rather than to property developers and others.

Councillors must be able to think through the issues of the day, clearly and decisively, without fear of or favour from political masters or vested interests.

Councillors must be prepared to act in the best interests of their constituents and must be comfortable with being fully accountable for their decisions and actions. Seventeen years of attending meetings and being paid well to do so, does not necessarily make a person a good representative of the organisations to which they belong or of the community they are supposed to be serving.

For a Mayor... I'm looking for fresh blood, an independent thinker, a person able to broker a balance between protecting the environment and developing the potential of this beautiful part of Queensland, someone with integrity and untainted by the decisions of past public life...


Full responsibility for the political opinion and assessment above is taken by the author. Authorised and published via the internet by Bevan Collingwood, 659 Teddington Road, Teddington, Queensland (presently a part of the Woocoo Shire).

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As published by the Fraser Coast Chronicle on 17 November 2007.

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