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Raising the standard

Weekly column from Council Courier e-newsletter by CEO Greg Hallam, Friday, 25 August 2017.

If campaigning in the 2016 local government elections marked a low point of bad feeling and aggression, then the deterioration of public debate since means that the 2020 elections risk being nothing short of a blood sport.

The time to ensure we avoid this is now, which is the why the LGAQ Policy Executive today endorsed the establishment of a Local Government Independent Election Monitor. The overwhelming feeling of elected members, watchdog institutions, the State Government and the media is that the time for such an authority has come.

There is too much policy rubbish laced with personal attacks to allow the poor old voter to make a truly informed choice about who they should put in charge of managing their local community. Whether this is solely because of the advent of social media or whether it would have happened anyway is a moot point. The salient thing is that political campaigning has become an ugly free-for-all.

You often hear professional pollies from the PM down give the opinion that politics in Australia has always been “robust”. By this, they mean that even at its best it was a bloody rough game, giving rise to nuggets of weary wisdom like: “If you want a friend in Canberra, get a dog”. Local government politics was usually a bit more polite. Not anymore.

Those with a vendetta or a warped view of the world now have an unfiltered means of broadcasting whatever they think, regardless of how defamatory their accusations are. There are only a handful of these rabid and perpetually outraged citizens but their behaviour can potentially damage the institution of local government in the eyes of the general public. The risk increases when they are given succour by irresponsible parliamentarians like Rob Pyne.

The Election Monitor is a genuine attempt to raise the standard of debate at election time, put the sword to blatant furphies and call out those seeking to damage their political opponents with unwarranted slurs. It’s an attempt to stop the rot and the slide into the political abyss.

To be successful, of course, it needs to be fully at arm’s length and independent from the LGAQ. It’s credibility will rely on the calibre of the inaugural head of the LGIEM. This is a first for Australia but the LGAQ believes it is a necessary reform.

Onto more positive matters, I was delighted to attend the Maranoa/Roma Council 150 year celebrations  in Roma this week and catch up with so many retired mayors and councillors  of the former Roma, Bungil, Waroo, Bendemere and Booringa councils. I had a special treat meeting one of the oldest living Australians, 107-year-old Dexter Kruger. Would you believe there are TWO 107-year-olds living at the Pinaroo Roma aged care facility? A testament to country living!

Read or download the Report: Investigation into Establishing a Local Government Independent Election Monitor

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