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CEO column: Tough times

Friday, 4 May 2018

Weekly column by LGAQ CEO, Greg Hallam

Tough times. Ipswich City Council has been issued with a show cause notice as to why they should not be dismissed, and a champion of Local Government, former Deputy Premier, Terry Mackenroth passed away.

 

To the first matter, it’s thankfully a rare occurrence for a Queensland council to be sacked. The last was Johnstone Shire just over 11 years ago. Importantly, Ipswich City Council is yet to be dismissed, and they are afforded natural justice by way of a period of time to formally respond to the show cause notice issued by the Minister. This process and the State Government response will now run its course. The LGAQ will have nothing further to say on the matter.

There is no way to sugar coat this development. It’s ugly, and affects everyone in Local Government. Our thoughts and best wishes go out to the residents of Ipswich, the council staff, and their elected member body as they are rightly entitled to the presumption of innocence, natural justice and day in court. Everyone is hurting.

Importantly, the LGAQ has been able to proudly say there have only been two councils dismissed in the past 40 years in Queensland. Moreover, the four former, or currently serving, elected members charged with criminal offences represent 0.6% of the entire elected member cohort in Queensland.

Better still, as a combined level of government we have put up a raft of reforms to improve integrity to the State Government. There have been five in total over the past six months following the tabling of the CCC Belcarra report. A full package of ten measures was approved by your Policy Executive just last Friday entitled Beyond Belcarra.

We are part of the solution and not mired in the past. We ask the State to legislate those measures as a matter of priority.

This week we also the mourn the loss of Terry Mackenroth following his sudden death. In my opinion, Terry “ the Fox” Mackenroth was the best Local Government Minister I’ve dealt with in my 26 years in the job. He was a very capable, sure-footed administrator. He was hard, but fair, funny, genuine and a person of complete integrity. If he said yes to you on an issue  he kept his word. There was no political double speak or weasel words. It was just Yes or No.

Terry’s great legacy as Local Government Minister in both the Goss and Beattie Governments was the 1993 Local Govt Act - the cornerstone of our current system. The IPA  legislation still largely prevails today. Then there was a 50% increase across the board on capital works subsidies, $150 m to Queensland councils for implementing NCP - the only state to do so - and the list goes on. Some might say his greatest gift to our sphere of government was four year terms granted in 1999, and started in 2000.

Sadly, Terry and I fell out over amalgamation. At the time, he wasn’t the Minister. He had retired and was part of the Boundaries Commission. Fortunately, during the Newman Government we were asked to be the Chair and Deputy Chair of the Bundaberg Disaster Appeal and we became good mates again. We kept in regular contact including lunch just before Xmas last year. I only saw Terry seven weeks ago in my office in his capacity as Chair of the State Government’s External Cladding Fire Safety Taskforce.

To my dying days, I will always remember Terry’s beaming, toothy smile. I miss you mate and pass on local governments’ condolences to Mary, their daughters, and grandchildren.

Vale a great servant of the people and councils.

 

Local Government Association of Queensland
LG House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006