Gympie region must not waste its powerful protest vote
Letter to the Editor
CONGRATULATIONS to the electorate for lodging the powerful protest vote that resulted in a very different looking council for the next four years.
I had thought the election would be a contest between apathy (those who didn’t know, and couldn’t care less) and antipathy (those who were clearly dissatisfied with the incumbent council). And I believed that the numbers were on the side of apathy.
But I was, thankfully, wrong. Most people were sufficiently interested (and disaffected) to express their views at the place where it really “counted”—the ballot box.
The extensive clean-out on Capitol Hill is a clear warning to the incoming councillors. Earn your $80,000 a year, or you will not get another four years at our expense.
There were multiple problems with the last council, not least of which was a culture of disengagement.
By March 2020, many people did not know who had supposedly been representing their interests for the past four years. Incumbents, door-knocking in the hope of another term, had to introduce themselves and identify the division they hoped to “represent “ again. Puzzled residents on opening the front door, and seeing a stranger, expected to be asked for directions or offered a copy of “Awake”.
There were many occasions when I was disappointed by the poor attendance, or total absence, of councillors at significant public functions.
One such occasion has stayed vividly in my memory. Last year I attended the Little Haven Memorial Service for the deceased who had passed through their caring hands in the previous twelve months.
There could have been a hundred people being remembered by their loved ones. They would have paid rates in every division of the Gympie Regional Council. I looked around in vain for a representative from the council.
We must not allow that culture of aloofness, of disengagement, to continue.
At the Meet the Candidates evenings I attended (all except Divisions 1 and 8) every candidate committed to holding two public meetings a year with their constituents. We must hold them to that, and their constituents should expect the same of the successful candidates in Divisions 1 and 7.
As well, councillors must acknowledge that they receive the salary and conditions of an attractive, full-time job. And commit to it accordingly.
As for the community, we must do better too. We must make conscientious use of the promised live-streaming of council proceedings and the reintroduction of General Business to the meeting agenda.
We should press for the reconfiguration of council meetings and for the use of microphones. And we must turn up and contribute to the public meetings that our representatives have promised to call. Without this two-way engagement, the election will have been a farce and the incoming council merely an expensive irrelevance.
This is a fresh start — but that is all it is so far. It is not yet the “Brave New World” that so many hope for. It is up to both the council and the community to ensure that we don’t repeat the past.
MervWelch, The Palms