Tuesday, May 15, 2007

You Wouldn't Read About It

That was a favoured saying of my father during my childhood, to express incredulity at the weird and bizarre world that surrounds us on occasion. It is one that comes to mind on a point that has been buzzing around my head for the last few weeks, a point that interrupted my beautiful dream this morning and forced me to face my computer at 3.34am this morning.

One change that has come into my life since V moved down here is that we now receive the local daily newspaper (LDN). This is in an attempt to gain knowledge and understanding of the events and repercussions of the world we live in. Please allow me to pause and laugh at that concept when coupled with the LDN.

We are offered occasional snippets of important information, it is true - but the main fodder concerning the LDN is the accidents, brawls, domestic intrigues, crime and stupidity brought about (generally) by excessive consumption of alcohol and/or drugs. Oh, and how government stinks - its a balanced tabloid.

The letters to the editor are all on how lenient the sentences handed down are (and they are), what a bunch of whingers the oldies/youngies/lefties/pollies are (ditto) and how slack the local council is in fixing basic services for anyone outside of spitting distance of the chambers front doors (right on the money).

It reminds me a bit of school, where the same crew were continually in trouble for being trouble makers - and then the whinging about the teachers and parents not doing enough. And I remain as bemused as the school kid I once was, where I notice that the most care and attention goes towards the troublemakers and placatory efforts.

Of late, other factors also remind me of school. I went to boarding school, and I will be darned if some politicians (at all levels) remind me of the mistresses who wielded power in that institution. (See disclaimer below)

The most concerning thing on the radar in regional Queensland at the moment is a little issue called "Forced Shire Amalgamations". It probably doesn't receive much coverage at any level but that of regional Queensland because, quite frankly, who could be bothered by the conflicting bleats of the various little interests of regional Queensland unless you lived amongst it? But I think it is an issue that the rest of Queensland at least should take note of - if not all Australians and world members who want to see how government can treat their people like schoolchildren and get away with it.

A bit of background. Local shires in regional areas gather rates from those who live in close in the local towns and from those who live farther away who use the local town as a commercial centre and then theoretically redistribute those rates as services to the members of the shire. Through this, locals receive employment within the council, facilities in the shire are maintained and industry is supported both directly in promotion and indirectly through services such as good roads, decent town water and sewerage and lobbying for local interests on occasion.

In practice, it is true, there are varying degrees of success in this operation. Some shires are very good at stretching the dollar, applying for supplementary funding to create industry, employment and goodwill throughout their region - and then there are those that spend all the dosh in favoured places, laugh at their constituents and bust the bank.

And hey, obviously the local shire (or the doughnut shire as it is affectionately known, after the shape it is in due to previous shire amalgamations) has a few issues regarding the distribution of its services, given the luxurious parking bays at the Esplanade opposite the new resorts and the lack of proper drainage at a town only 15km down the road. (Oh and the generous remuneration they voted for themselves just before the proverbial hit the fan in April.)

However, what local government does give regional Queenslanders mainly is the feeling that they can approach their local councillor and voice their needs and concerns and hope s/he takes it on board - and boot him out or write to the LDN if s/he fails to heed their needs.

Well, that is all about to change. Here is the change process as related to the Queensland State Government (or Matron in boarding school parlance - Beattie is slightly prettier):
  • at some point in the past (not sure when - I am not a investigative journalist), Matron (sorry - the Queensland State Government) told the girls (sorry - Shire Councils) to sit down and discuss merging their shires covering thousands of square kilometres with neighbouring shires covering thousands of square kilometres. They sat down, discussed and decided that they didn't really like it but would keep playing the game to keep Matron happy.
  • Matron and her minions kept giving hoops to jump through regarding this reform. I am not privy to the exact hoops, but submissions made had to go through departments, be amended and rejected for resubmission - and sometimes deadlines were set too tightly to be undertaken.
  • on the 17th of April:
    The State Government announcement on Tuesday, 17 April stopped that process. A new Reform Commission has been established to review local government in Queensland in time for the 2008 local government elections. The commission will provide an announcement to the Minister in August this year advising the names, classes and new boundaries for local government areas.
    Yes, thats right girls - you are no longer to sit here and discuss, we will make the decisions for you.
I am sure that better ways can be had for local governments and councillors to act - but I am equally sure that there is a much better way for the State Government to act than to be seen as ripping any shred of democratic process out of the hands of the people of the bush and imposing their will.

And just like at school, it would have been much better to have not offered the bat and ball in the first place - the transparency may have shown them to be the bullies just like the school misstresses of yore, but hey, honest bullies.

If you are interested, here are a few sites and articles:

Disclaimer: Those of you who know me know how political I am not, in the main. I am interested in the ramifications, obviously, when they affect me or people I know - but I have lived too diverse a life to sign my endorsement to any affiliation - especially one that is busy playing politics.

I grew up in the country, and obviously the politics spruiked by those who spoke FOR the bush and FROM the bush. I lived many years in cities and understood and applauded those who spoke for social reform, environmental sustainability and rights at all levels. I have been a single mother and worked in the advertising industry. Unfortunately I can see most sides of an argument and therefore don't want to argue any more!

I originally come from both the Monto and Eidsvold Shires (it happens) and have relatives involved in the Future of Monto blog.

I intend to resume whinging about my own life soon.


Anonymous said...

Hi Sophie what a great blog, a real blog. Personal and at once universal, lovely loopy discourse, like a long languid journey into your head until we realise it is our head also that we are gliding through. I hope you don't mind but I wanted to grab all of your links re amalgamation for the future of monto blog. Your wonderful work here inspires me to think again about how I might respond to my own blogging hiatus. Some of my stuff can be found at deanpower.net, fullmonto.com, outabckontv.com. There is more (you'll find it), however your poignant prose provokes a more poetic approach more reflective than reportage. Cheers Dean