Noosa’s election campaign ‘conflicts’ continues
NOOSA's political niggle between candidates continues to simmer as the independent election umpire set up by the Local Government Association of Queensland is called in to rule on three allegations of misleading claims.
Acting Independent Council Election Observer Wayne Cochrane has found two complaints by Deputy Mayor Frank Wilkie about Future Noosa campaign material were just part of the rough and tumble of electioneering.
However Mr Cochrane has upheld one of Cr Wilkie's complaints. This comes after allegations by candidate Amelia Lorentson that Noosa Council mislead the community over its handling of the draft Noosa Plan and its approach to short-term letting were rejected by the 'fake news' by the ICEO.
The first ICEO review refers a claim which appeared a Future Noosa election brochure for Andrew Squires, Karen Finzel and David Fletcher that: "Noosa Council strongly resisted opening its processes and decision making to the community."
Cr Wilkie said the public record shows the council remains "committed to, and is continually improving its practice of open, consultative, transparent governance".
Candidate Fletcher responded to ICEO request for evidence to support the claim that at council meetings there was "continuing incidents of resistance to openness and transparency by the council".
"Those incidents include a failure by the council to support a number of motions advanced by Cr Ingrid Jackson dealing with recording minutes of committee meetings, live streaming, videoing and archiving online committee meetings, ordinary meetings and special meetings," Mr Fletcher said.
Mr Cochrane's ruling said: "A failure by a local government to adopt proposals advanced by a sitting councillor or to adopt procedures which may be contemplated by a State Government do not constitute any known form of misconduct or municipal dereliction of duty."
"The ICEO is determined not to interfere in robust debate and commentary between groups or individuals with an interest in the upcoming election and, in the opinion of the ICEO, the subject of this review request falls into this category."
Mr Wilkie's second complaint of misleading information against a Future Noosa claim that: "The current councillors choose to vote on many issues as a bloc, and the effects of this have been to stifle robust debate and to protect vested interests."
Cr Wilkie said: "The ordinary meeting minutes over the past four year term show many, if not almost all, decisions are unanimous and demonstrate there is no 'voting bloc'.
"All councillors are independents, not members of any political party and free to vote according to their conscience in the best interests of the community," Cr Wilkie said.
Mr Fletcher's response focused on the failure by sitting councillor Cr Ingrid Jackson to secure a seconder for motions proposed by her or losing motions for which a seconder emerged.
"A review of council general committee meeting records and ordinary meeting minutes gives clear evidence that the majority of Noosa councillors have voted as a bloc against Cr Ingrid Jackson when voting."
Mr Cochrane said it was "difficult to see anything nefarious or sinister in councillors voting unanimously or nearly so on a range of issues".
"No material has been provided to me which establishes a bloc having been established for the ulterior purpose of frustrating Cr Jackson's municipal ambitions," he said.
The acting ICEO found these "comments set out in the election brochure are misleading and should not have alleged that debate has been stifled".
Cr Wilkie also objected to Future Noosa's further claim that: "Noosa Council has declared a climate emergency, but no practical local activities were proposed in relation to fire, flood or coastal erosion. We will ensure council prepares and assists the community to deal with the complex impacts of climate change."
Mr Cochrane final ruling said: "The ICEO is determined not to interfere in robust debate and commentary between groups or individuals with an interest in the upcoming election and, in the opinion of the ICEO, the subject of this review request falls into this category."
Footnote: Cr Wilkie's complaints were unable to be dealt with by ICEO John Robertson, who declared a conflict of interest with requests that related to the Future Noosa group of candidates.