Retiring Southern Downs Regional Council mayor, Ron Bellingham.
Retiring Southern Downs Regional Council mayor, Ron Bellingham. Jenna Cairney

Retiring mayor angry at 'circus'

IT'S nothing other than a political "circus" that's caused local government elections to be delayed, Southern Downs Regional Council mayor Ron Bellingham said yesterday.

Despite announcing he would retire at the 2012 local elections, the region's outgoing leader slammed the State Government for what he called its political games.

"It demonstrates what the State really thinks of local government," Cr Bellingham said at yesterday's general meeting in Stanthorpe.

"Quite bluntly, we are on fixed four-year terms and it's about damn time the State Government adopted the same, so this circus that's gone on in the last months ceases."

"The State Government is more focused on the politics of election day than managing government business."

His fierce comments came after Premier Anna Bligh announced March 24 as the date she would go to the polls.

In doing so, the local government elections are likely to now be pushed back to April 28.

The scheduling "smacks of political gamesmanship" according to local member for Southern Downs, Lawrence Springborg.

Mr Springborg said these changes in dates were "a bit unfair" to local governments.

"If the Premier was fair dinkum, she would've consulted with local government much earlier," Mr Springborg said.

"She would've done it last year instead of dropping it on them," she said.

"It very much smacks of political gamesmanship and it should have been dealt with much earlier and in a more dignified way."

Mr Springborg said while it would have been "quite ridiculous" to hold the elections close to one another, it only heightened speculation about elections with no fixed terms.

Local government has long had four-year fixed election terms, and Mr Springborg argued the same three-year timeline should be put in place for state government.

Meanwhile Southern Downs council contender Jamie Mackenzie, who announced his intention to run earlier this week, said yesterday's announcement left this council in a state of limbo.

"I'm hardly impressed with her manipulation of state and local government," Mr Mackenzie said.

"The Local Government Act is there to give people certainty, and to have her change key dates like the last Saturday of March every four years, for her party's political gain, is not at all correct.

"I feel very sorry for the local government that has contracts around that date."

Mr Mackenzie said it wasn't just employment contracts, but everything from catering, to stationary supply and roadworks contracts that would all be affected.

He said he would have liked to have seen the state election on February 18.

"That makes it totally clear and separate from local government and by the time local government elections come people wouldn't be sick of it," he said.

"That would give six weeks either side."

In Ms Bligh's announcement yesterday, she said the reason for pushing the state election back from March 3 to March 24 was because of an extension to the flood inquiry.

 

Elections

State government elections: March 24 (initially called for March 3).

Local government elections: April 28.


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