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Thursday, 13 September 2007
Page: 166

Mr SLIPPER (1:00 PM) —Much has been said in the House and around the country about the plans for local government amalgamations which were announced by the former Beattie government and which will be continued by the new Bligh Labor government in Queensland. Most of the angst, particularly on the Sunshine Coast, results from the process that was followed: the lack of consultation, the failure by the state government to take into account what local people are saying and, of course, the arrogant, high-handed manner in which the state Labor government was going to axe local governments that were proposing to hold referenda or plebiscites.

The Prime Minister and the government introduced legislation, which was debated in the House recently, to enable the Australian Electoral Commission to carry out a plebiscite for any local authority wishing to have one. The cost of those plebiscites would be assumed by the Australian taxpayer. In terms of the Sunshine Coast, I see a lot of merit in merging the Caloundra City Council with the Maroochy Shire Council and the Noosa Council. It would enable us as the Sunshine Coast to advertise ourselves as an entity and to promote ourselves as Australia’s premier tourist destination and, increasingly, as Australia’s most desirable place to live. While we certainly would not want to be like the Gold Coast, we have so often been in competition with it. The Gold Coast has been a single entity for a long time. The former Albert Shire Council merged with the Gold Coast City Council to form Gold Coast City Council a number of years ago and the Gold Coast has been very successful in promoting itself.

We as the Sunshine Coast would not by any means want high-rise from one end to the other. We value the fact that we are a family destination. We value the fact that on the Sunshine Coast we have a range of beaches and facilities. Frankly, we have something for everyone, from the 4½- and five-star resorts at Noosa and Mooloolaba, through to family based destinations and even caravan parks. But one of the difficulties we have had as the Sunshine Coast is that we have Caloundra, Maroochy and Noosa. While we have had SunROC—the Sunshine Coast Regional Organisation of Councils—endeavouring to work together, it was very much a second-best option. As the local member, I will be pleased to see the three local authorities on the Sunshine Coast merge. But, having said that, I very strongly support the position of the government, which enables the residents of Caloundra, Maroochy and Noosa to express their own views on what the state government has sought to do in a high-handed manner.

Following the recent redistribution, the seat of Fisher has been pushed south and now includes part of the Caboolture Shire Council. The Caboolture shire is being forcibly rolled into a new local authority. The other members of that new local authority will be the Redcliffe City Council and the Pine Rivers Shire Council. Again, if the residents of Caboolture decide that they want to have a plebiscite, I will strongly support that as well.

The Kilcoy shire is a rural shire which has now also been returned to the electorate of Fisher. Kilcoy shire was particularly concerned that it was going to be rolled into the Pine Rivers Shire Council, Redcliffe City Council and Caboolture Shire Council merger. Kilcoy is a small rural area that has absolutely nothing in common with those areas, which are on the northern outskirts of Brisbane and are very densely populated and built up. The state government decided that Kilcoy would merge to the west with the Esk Shire Council to form the Somerset Regional Council. The Kilcoy community has elected to have a plebiscite and I have conveyed that message to the Prime Minister. I am hopeful that that plebiscite will proceed, because it really is important that people in Kilcoy get the opportunity to cast a vote on whether they want decades of existence to be abolished by the state Labor government.

Having indicated my support in principle for the merger of the three councils on the Sunshine Coast, I am, however, disappointed that the state government has decided to call the merged council the Sunshine Coast Regional Council instead of the Sunshine Coast city council. I hope that, once the merger happens, the new council will be able to obtain the city status that the Gold Coast holds. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.