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Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Democratic Plebiscites) Bill 2007

CHAIR — These will be straight statements. There will not be questions or exchange across the table.

Mr Hopkins —So you want me to make a straight statement?

CHAIR —Yes, a two-minute statement.

Mr Hopkins —Listening to what people have said just in the last few minutes, the statement I would like to make is that the Beattie government should be prorogued simply because the Constitution Act 1867 states that any bill introduced into parliament that purports to abolish local council in Queensland—so that there is no longer any system of local government in Queensland—must first be put to the people and be approved by a majority before it can be presented to the Governor for assent. It goes on. There is no way in the world that those who wrote that up would envisage a situation coming into being as we have today, simply because, when that was written, the Westminster system made the bill sit on the table for one year and one day. That has been whittled down to 13 days. And it did not even sit on the table for 13 days; it sat for two. That being said, and Beattie doing what he is doing—he is a dictator—the mechanics of the democratic rights of our country have been watered down so that Beattie can now enact anything just like that and say, ‘We are not putting that on the table; it is going to go through.’ The Governor says, ‘Yes,’ stamps it, and then says, ‘Thank you very much; have a nice day.’ He is a rogue Premier and he needs to be prorogued by the powers of the Governor. She has the powers to do that, and if she does not do it, it is down to the monarchy to do it. I have written to the monarchy, and that is what everybody else should be doing, because this is the thin end of the wedge and it needs stamping out. I am sorry for getting so—

CHAIR —That is perfectly all right.

Mr Hopkins — I hope I have made my point. Thank you all for your time and effort, and consideration.

CHAIR —You are welcome.

Mr Kovassy —I apologise; I am going to read from my notes. I wrote my statement down so that I could trim it down to within the two minutes. I have been a local for 20 years and I am very worried. I am not against amalgamation in general. When Mr Beattie announced that some financially unviable, small councils had to amalgamate I thought, ‘Fair enough.’ We do not come under this criteria. If you care to look closely at our finances and those of Maroochy, you will see that, while ours are in excellent shape, Maroochy’s are in hopeless debt. That is why their rates are much higher. Now we will have to share this debt burden. I am very worried. When I have to ring my council for some services—for example, maintaining a stormwater canal—I get immediate attention. I hear from friends who live in the Maroochy Shire that that is not the case. It is mostly lost in a bureaucratic maze. I am very worried. In Noosa we have one set of traffic lights. Maroochydore is an ugly forest of traffic lights. Yesterday I went shopping in Wises Road and, in a stretch of 400 metres, where last year there was one set of traffic lights, now there are three sets. Are we going to look like that? I am very worried. Mr Beattie has promised that he will introduce iconic legislation to protect Noosa and a few other councils. When he appointed this committee he promised very faithfully, several times, that when the report came in, the cabinet and parliament would carefully consider it. No sooner was it announced than he immediately said that he was going to carry it through lock, stock and barrel. That was his promise. Unfortunately I cannot trust him any longer to keep his word. I am very worried.

CHAIR —Thank you, Mr Kovassy. I call Mr Brown to the table.

Mr Brown —The English political philosopher John Locke talked about the contract between the government and the people and what happens in the case of a violation of that contract if the government enacts something without the consent of the governed. I think that is what has happened in Queensland in these recent months: the Beattie government has broken and violated its contract with the people it governs.

Quite beyond the scope of the Commonwealth government to enact legislation, although it is limited by the Constitution from intervening in local government, this process of forced amalgamation will continue. I do not believe that Premier Beattie will stop just because local communities hold plebiscites saying that they disagree with his policy of forced amalgamation. So I want to air before this Senate committee the fact that the community groundswell will continue. What has happened in recent weeks has brought in the federal government; I agree with Senator Murray that it is of political historical significance about the nature of democracy and the relationship of people with their governments, at whatever level. If Mr Beattie persists in forcing through amalgamations across the state you will see, because we have no outlet for judicial review or appeal—because that has all been taken away and was the very first amendment that went through in April—a historical level of civil disobedience in this state.

Whilst I applaud the recognition of local government in the national Constitution I for one will never recognise the Sunshine Coast super council in the way it has been imposed upon me and this community. When the next government elections are held for the new super council I will be voting informally and saying, ‘Vote 1, Noosa Council.’ I encourage every Queenslander across the state who wishes to retain their council, in which they also have a caveatable interest because of the rates and levies they pay, to do the same. I will be encouraging them to refuse recognition of a local government that was undemocratically brought about.

CHAIR —Thank you, Mr Brown. I call Mr Spencer to the table.

Mr Spencer —Thank you for the opportunity to make a submission. I am totally in favour of this bill. It restores, or at least supports, what we all accept as a fundamental right to vote but, as has been reiterated particularly in the last few days, in spite of all reason the state government can still and will still proceed regardless of the outcome of any plebiscite.

I ask that this bill be extended to include some sort of resolution to hold a referendum at the next election to include constitutional recognition of local government or to force deferral of local government changes until a time that such a referendum can be finalised and implemented according to the vote within each local government area or community of interest. I believe that the circumstances that have allowed this situation to arise have to be addressed and amended.

CHAIR —Thank you, Mr Spencer. That concludes this public hearing of the Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee. The committee stands adjourned until it reconvenes in Emerald tomorrow.

Committee adjourned at 5.34 pm