Merv Welch
Merv Welch

Council decision ‘virtue signalling very much on the cheap’

Letter to the Editor by Merv Welch

I AM already frustrated by the digital version of The Gympie Times. The letter by Cr Bruce Devereaux in which he attempted to defend councillors’ recent decision to forego their “accidental” raise for just this year disappeared in less than a day.

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It is probably well for Councillor Devereaux that it has. I am responding from memory only.

I had previously suggested in a letter to the Editor that Cr Polley was right in arguing that the gesture was “virtue signalling” and that it would be of insignificant financial benefit to ratepayers. And that Cr Polley should have moved an amendment that councillors forego the raise (accept a pay-freeze) for their four-year term of office.

There was a lot to object to in the Devereaux response, including the

Kristi Holliss and Merv Welch
Kristi Holliss and Merv Welch

arrogant and patronising tone.

There was also his suggestion that his letter not be construed as complaining when it started and finished with complaints.But let’s put that aside, together with the energetic self-promotion, and just look at the contentious raise in the context of both community perceptions and its actual financial benefit to ratepayers.

A raise, in the minds and experience of the public, is a reward for meritorious service over an extended period of time.

Cr Devereaux and four of his newly elected peers have been in office for three months. So they would not qualify for a raise on either criterion. As for the re-elected councillors, given the parlous state of council finances, they would be hard pressed to meet the benchmark of merit.

Councillor Bruce Devereaux - Picture: Shane Zahner
Councillor Bruce Devereaux - Picture: Shane Zahner

And the financial benefit to ratepayers of the one-year deferment of the unearned raise?

For the individual councillor it means a “sacrifice”( but not a pay-cut) of $1500, and a total saving to ratepayers of $ 15,000..(Council is in deficit for $4.2 million for the current year and is about to borrow upwards of $10 million just to carry on the business).

To forego the unearned raise for four years, ie.commit to a pay-freeze, each councillor would sacrifice $6000, but still receive a total salary of approximately $300,000; and it would save ratepayers some $60,000 from a total wage bill for elected councillors in excess of $3 million.

It would hardly be a monumental sacrifice on the part of councillors, who would receive their advertised salary in full; nor would it greatly alleviate the horror financial situation confronting ratepayers. But, at least it would be a gesture of recognisable significance.

Warren Polley
Warren Polley

To put it bluntly, the council resolution to forego the unjustified raise for just this one year, while it is “ nibbling in the right direction“, hardly constitutes a “bite” out of a councillor’s four-year guaranteed income, or ratepayers’ huge plateful of debt. It is “virtue signalling” very much on the cheap.

And this in the general context of the hundreds of thousands of Australians who have lost their jobs, many of them forever. According to reports, this sad number includes many residents of our own region.

Merv Welch, The Palms

Gympie Times


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