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Election signs ban trashes democratic tradition

Posted by Jim McDonald on March 4, 2012

Election signs are a sign that democracy is at work and there is an election in place.

Signs enable parties that aren’t supported by mining billionaires, like the sitting Noosa LNP member, Hon. Glen Elmes, to have a chance at getting their message out. The LNP is supported by mining magnate Clive Palmer. The Greens are supported by small  donations from individuals.

Candidate signage is an Australian and international democratic tradition found in every Western liberal democracy. However, Glen Elmes is prepared to support his mates on the Sunshine Coast Regional Council trashing an Australian electioneering  tradition and almost certainly breaching the Local Government Act.

The Council has announced that it will limit signs in Noosa to two for each candidate.

This limitation to two signs is disrespectful of the democratic political process. Mr Elmes runs the facile visual pollution argument, and rests his case on having both won and lost elections in the absence of signage. That reasoning is irrelevant to the matter of democratic principle. Indeed, I would argue that he presents the spectacle of an elected member of Parliament supporting the Council in breaking the provisions of the Local Government Act 2009. The Act expressly prevents the Council from prohibiting signs. While the Council limits two signs to a candidate, the Council prohibits any other signs. In my view the Council is breaking the law by putting any number on election signs.

Section 36(1)(b) of the Queensland Local Government Act 2009 states, without any caveat, that “A local government must not make a local law that … (b) prohibits the placement of election signs or posters.” What is clearer than that?

That provision leaves it open to regulation about placement but not limiting the number and certainly not insulting the intelligence of the voters and the candidates who put themselves forward for public office. If the Sunshine Coast Regional Council wants some consistency about placement, then it ought to consult the reasonable guidelines issued by the Department of Transport and Main Roads.

Mr Elmes’s support of the two sign announcement is another example of the LNP having lost any sense of a fair go and why his party is no better than the State Labor Government which ran roughshod over the Noosa Shire. The Greens stand much closer to the great Australian social justice traditions than either party, both of which have lost their way.

Jim McDonald
Greens Candidate,
Noosa Electoral District


Greens candidate says Noosa ban on election posters is anti-democratic

Posted by Jim McDonald on February 29, 2012

The Sunshine Coast Regional Council’s ban on effective poster advertising in Noosa is an attack on election democracy according to the Greens candidate for Noosa, Jim McDonald.

He was responding to the report in the Noosa News on Tuesday, 28 February that candidates in Noosa will be allowed only two posters.

“Some limitations are reasonable but the approach in Noosa is unsophisticated, cunning and over the top. It actively assists the sitting candidate in elections because new candidates’ faces are usually less well known in the electorate.

“The two poster limit is an effective ban on public political advertising during a campaign.

“It’s a backwoods strategy more at home in local government in the Appalachians in Alabama and is at odds with Australia’s democratic system.”

Dr McDonald said he believes that the Council is breaching the Act. “I believe that local government can regulate issues like placement, but not effectively ban, candidates’ advertising.

“Section 36(1)(b) of the Queensland Local Government Act states that ‘A local government must not make a local law that … (b) prohibits the placement of election signs or posters.’

“That prohibition does not allow for the Noosa bans imposed on campaigning for the State election. The term “prohibition” in its ordinary meaning applies. And the Council is hindering and preventing candidates in Noosa from campaigning using posters and
election signs.

“I would go as far as to say that limiting the number of signs in an electorate also breaches the Act.

“The Department of Transport and Main Roads have a set of reasonable limitations on election posters on road reserves and there is prohibition on motorways. The Department’s guide addresses safety issues on all roads.

“Even if the limitation on numbers is legal, the Regional Council’s bans on Noosa candidates are inequitable because candidates whose electorates were in other shires within the Sunshine Coast allow for greater numbers.

“Cr Green is quoted as saying that the ‘Noosa community was offended by election signage’. How can he know that? And which community is he talking about: Noosa in the 1970s or Noosa in 2012?

“People in Noosa have a right, and it is a responsibility of citizenship, to know who their candidates are and temporary election signage is a significant source of knowledge about candidates in Western democracy and the Australian political tradition.”

Jim McDonald, Noosa Greens Candidate, Media Release 29 February 2012

Greens candidate supports live music in Noosa

Posted by Jim McDonald on February 17, 2012

Noosa’s heart is being ripped out by Council caving in to residents, who bought into the area without doing their homework, complaining about our live music culture, according to The Greens candidate for Noosa, Jim McDonald.

Dr McDonald said the musical life of Noosa was certainly one of the attractions that brought him to Noosa and it was one of the features of cultural life that had kept him there.

“Now, instead of a wide choice of music, the options are being narrowed by a Council that doesn’t understand Noosa’s cultural heritage. If it did, it would explain to people who choose to live in food and entertainment precincts such as Gympie Terrace or next to a Lifesaving Club, that live music is a core value of the Noosa lifestyle.

“The Sunshine Coast Regional Council gives greater weight to killjoys than the large numbers of followers of the Peregian Originals outdoor concerts at Peregian Surf Club, for example.

“We are not talking about open-air AC/DC concerts here. We are not talking about loud night pop concerts.

“Of course, all night loud party music in residential areas is inappropriate and some people don’t know how to behave with respect.

“But music in restaurants has been closed down because people who bought into the area didn’t bother to check out what it is like to live in a tourist centre such as Gympie Terrace or what established entertainment there was in the area.

“I strongly support restoring a healthy musical life to Noosa.

“If elected to Parliament, I shall push for the establishment of certain areas in Noosa, such as Hastings Street, the Junction, Gympie Terrace, and parkland outside the Peregian Beach Surf Lifesaving Club, as ‘Centre Zones’ to protect pre-existing uses including entertainment and cultural activities.”

Jim McDonald
Greens Candidate, Noosa
17 February 2012 

Greens call for return of Noosa’s water supply assets

Posted by Jim McDonald on February 7, 2012

The Greens candidate for Noosa, Jim McDonald, called for the State Government to restore Unity Water assets to the Councils that developed them.

Dr McDonald said, “Ratepayers funds helped develop Noosa’s water supply and so it belongs to the community. It should never have been grabbed by the Bligh Government to be corporatised in preparation for selling off another public asset. Lake Macdonald was a Noosa Council project.

“Unity Water has done nothing but slug consumers and adopted practices that look more like a mafia operation: exhorbitant metre reading guesses and residents slugged for costs even if they are not connected to the grid are, frankly, unethical standover tactics.

“Separating Unity Water from the Council is also dysfunctional. Subsided trenches crossing Noosa’s streets remain unrepaired despite the Sunshine Coast Regional Council having just completed asphalt road repairs throughout Noosa.

“In one case, a subsided trench on Hill Street in Sunshine Beach lies unrepaired not 10 metres away from the recent round of resurfacing. The Council claims maintenance of the trenches is Unity Water’s responsibility.

“We can blame Labor for that nonsense. But what does the LNP propose? Their so-called “CanDo” policy States that Glen Elmes’ party will combine Unity Water into an even larger body, claiming it would be more efficient. What that will do is make it easier to sell it off to private enterprise and the LNP should come clean about their plans.

“Not being known for its consistency, the party that tries to tell us that the amalgamated Sunshine Coast Regional Council isn’t efficient for Noosa ratepayers argues for State centralisation of water assets developed by the Noosa Shire!

“In no case in Australia has the sale of publicly owned utilites resulted in cheaper prices for consumers whether they have been sold by Labor or Liberal/Nationals.

“Voters are entitled to straight answers from the LNP for their ultimate plans for Unity Water and other publicly-owned assets. Mr Elmes should come clean and state unambiguously that the LNP will return Noosa’s water assets to a reconstituted Noosa Council.

“The Greens are committed to retaining essential public services in public ownership to be run in the public interest.

“I will work in the Parliament for residents to get back Noosa Council control over the assets their rates paid for.”

Jim McDonald
Greens Candidate, Noosa
Media Release, 6 February 2012 


Noosa Greens Candidate dissects LNP policy on de-amalgamation and finds a “Yes Minister” policy designed to fail

Posted by Jim McDonald on January 24, 2012

Jim McDonald, the Greens Candidate for Noosa, writes to the Noosa News about de-amalgamation:

I’d like to thank Bob Ansett for pointing out what the LNP’s website says about Noosa’s de-amalgamation because what the LNP spokesperson for Local Government, Gympie MP, David Gibson, says and doesn’t say on that website is quite different from the LNP’s actual policy.

As The Greens candidate for Noosa, I have called for a referendum to establish the ratepayers’ wishes as the primary step in giving the Noosa community the local government it really wants. This is a community-focussed process of decision-making and the role of the Government will be then to facilitate – through community consultation – any changes resulting from the community’s response.

The LNP proposal is for “an advisory poll of voters in any proposed new Local Government boundary” after a Queensland Boundaries Commissioner has prepared their “preferred options” for any changes after he or she has considered submissions from the community.

These are important differences that need to be understood by all the groups involved. The LNP offers the Noosa community an “advisory” role in a poll. The policy does not indicate what kind of poll that might be. The Greens have called for a local  referendum – let the community decide on deamalgamation not some appointed Commissioner fiddling with boundaries, “advised” by the community.

This “advisory poll” is something quite different from Mr Newman’s and Mr Gibson’s undertaking that “residents living within the proposed new council area will, by a simple majority, vote whether or not they wish to establish a new Noosa Shire Council”.

In designating a role for a Commissioner to make the decision on whether Noosa is to get the Council it wants, the LNP has developed a process that pushes the community to the side. LNP policy also will load the cost of a new Noosa Council on the residents: “ratepayers of any proposed new local authority would bear the full costs of any de-amalgamation.”

The Greens position is that if the community decides on separation the cost should be borne by the Government since it was the Queensland Government that forced amalgamation on us in the first place.

The Commissioner’s process of decision-making looks very like a “Yes Minister” scenario. I say that because the LNP policy includes the critical statement of principle: “The LNP has made it clear that its preference is for Queensland’s Councils to remain as  currently constituted to avoid any further disruption and cost for local communities.” With that statement goes any confidence that accommodating the electorate’s interests is anything more than a sop to the community’s wishes.

As a Noosa resident who favours de-amalgamation, I’m rather disappointed that Friends of Noosa and the Alliance find the LNP position so attractive since any close examination of the LNP policy shows that Campbell Newman and David Gibson have made an offer that is designed to fail the wishes of the Noosa community, and the LNP cannot be trusted to carry out their wishes.

Jim McDonald
Greens Candidate
Noosa
13 January 2012

Media Release: Greens candidate says the debate on a new Noosa Council misses the most important issue

Posted by Jim McDonald on

The Greens candidate for Noosa, Dr Jim McDonald, said that the most important issue in the de-amalgamation debate was that the State Government should give Noosa residents the Council they really want.

He said, “No-one should assume that the Noosa community as a whole still has the views that were evident in 2007 – 8. There is significant churn in this electorate as residents come and go. “At the moment, the activists and the other candidates hitching a ride on the de-amalgamation campaign only think they know. People I talk to are not of a single voice on the issue.

“We need to get away from the hysteria evident in the public debate. The State Government owes it to the people of Noosa and those communities willing to join in a new Noosa Council to conduct a referendum in the Noosa region when the State election is held.”

Dr McDonald said that a referendum in Noosa and communities wishing to join in on the establishment of a new Council would be a smart move for the Queensland Government. It would establish once and for all what Noosa people really want for their area.

He said that although the Independent Alliance had taken some of the party political spin out of the issue, the old party politics had hobbled the Noosa Council issue. “I’ve been listening for years now to Bob Ansett rail against Anna Bligh. When Friends of Noosa threw their lot behind Glen Elmes and the LNP, and claimed to speak for the residents, they cut off any opportunity for the Noosa community to negotiate separation with the Queensland Government before the Coast councils were amalgamated. They made it an Opposition campaign
issue.

“The Greens campaigned for de-amalgamation during the last State election. It is still Greens policy for Noosa. However, establishing the actual wishes of Noosa residents today is the fundamental priority in considering Noosa’s future.

“The Greens believe in strong Local Government,” he said, “but the most important point is that a separate council should not be imposed on Noosa any more than amalgamation was. If the majority want the Regional Council to work better, then the new Government should respond to that.

“Earlier this year, Greens Leader, Bob Brown, sought to strengthen local government by calling for a federal referendum to include provisions in the Constitution to protect Councils in areas like Noosa. “Meanwhile the local branches of the Labor Party remain silent. I am sure that Glen Elmes himself is sincere about de-amalgamation but the LNP makes promises that have so many back-out provisions their commitment cannot be believed.

“Considering the affordability question is critical, but the debate is off the rails. On the one side the Alliance costings would support the argument for a new council. On the other side, Cr Brennan has aligned himself with the technocrats in the Regional Council and some opposition is based almost solely on the costs.

“The Noosa Greens believe the State Government, which inflicted amalgamation on Noosa, should cover the costs of separation if the residents of Noosa and surrounding communities wishing to join with Noosa are given an opportunity to vote on it and they actually support the creation of a new Noosa Council.”

Jim McDonald
Noosa Greens Candidate
13 December 2011

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