Tuesday 28 August 2007

Beattie Vote: Saturday October 20th

The Queensland's Local Government Association has recommended October 20th for local Councils across the State to hold local referendums (or plebiscites for those Latin folk amongst us) on the State Govt's forced council amalgamations.

The Federal Government will pass legislation to allow the Australian Electoral Commission to conduct the votes.

Paul Bell, president of LGAQ, questioned the State's motives for the reforms saying that "this issue is much larger than boundary changes, it's a full frontal assault on local government. It's an attempt to limit the influence of mayors and councillors and weaken local government's power in Queensland. When you hear the words stronger councils, don't believe a word of it, it's pure spin." Fighting words, eh?!

The LGAQ completed three surveys since June, regarding attitudes to council amalgamations. Two of these surveys were held prior to the announcement of proposed boundary changes, while the third was conducted in the week following the announcement of the proposed new boundaries. The sample survey of 600 respondents were asked a number of questions in relation to the process the State Government took to introduce the amalgamations.

QUESTION: “If Council boundary changes or amalgamations are to occur in your area do you think the local community should have the opportunity for a referendum on the proposal so that their view is known before a decision is taken?

Overall 75.5% saw a need for a referendum. This was highest in Sth East Queensland and lowest in Provincial areas.

“If your Council were to be amalgamated with one or more Councils in this region, would you prefer that this was based on the result of a local referendum or should this be decided solely by the State Government?

The results were very similar to those in June with almost 78% overall seeing a need for a local referendum. Both of these surveys were undertaken prior to the announcement of the proposed amalgamations. In early August, during the week following the announcement, a survey of 1,100 people in regions affected by the proposals was undertaken.

Do you think that, before a final decision is taken by the State Government, a local referendum on the proposed council boundary changes in your area is necessary regardless of cost, or would it be a waste of money?

In this survey of those directly affected 59% saw a referendum as necessary regardless of cost while only 35% saw it as a waste of money. However there was a variation across the affected communities. Of the 27 new council areas surveyed, less than 50% felt a referendum was necessary in 8 of the new council areas. More than 70% felt a referendum was necessary in 7 of the new council areas.

Overall, these surveys do point to a relatively strong community desire to express their views on amalgamation by way of a local referendum.

Let the people sing.

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