As a student in
Noosa’s Hell’s Gate. To be amalgamated, along with the rest of Noosa Shire.
This week saw the completion of the amalgamation plebiscites in a number of
Senator Andrew Murray’s bizarrely optimistic interpretation notwithstanding, the council amalgamation episode must surely stand as a textbook example of governments failing to take direct democracy seriously.
From the outset the Queensland Labor government bypassed any real input from affected communities, and rammed through the amalgamation legislation. For their part, the Coalition backed a federally administered plebiscite as a political tool against the Queensland Government (does anyone believe they would have sought a plebiscite had the Coalition been running
The Noosa vote, followed by that in Redcliffe, are the most instructive cases. In Noosa Shire, a very respectable 68.8% of eligible voters sent in their ballots. Of those who did, 95.3% opposed the amalgamation, meaning that at it is clearly opposed by at least 65.6% – nearly two-thirds – of all eligible voters. The corresponding figures for Redcliffe are 58.1% turnout, 86.8% voting no, and an absolute minimum of 50.5% of all voters – an absolute majority – opposed.
But the amalgamations will proceed anyway. Neither party was ever serious about consulting the public or being guided by the outcome. Labor must shoulder more of the blame here, but the Coalition’s motives were far from pure. The plebiscite exercise has all the trappings, but none of the substance, of direct democracy. The best we can hope for is that the cynicism and disrespect with which voters have been treated will come home to roost at future elections, and that proper use of plebiscites and referenda become a cause that candidates can safely and enthusiastically champion.