300 ratepayers but 107 per cent payrise
COUNCILLORS of a far flung western Queensland shire are about to get a massive pay rise as millions of Australians lose their jobs or struggle on reduced salaries.
Diamantina Shire councillors including Doug Coombs, Stephen Cramer, Francis Murray and Don Rayment will now collect an annual salary of around $54,000, up from $26,000.
Newly elected Mayor Mayor Robbie Dare, whose western shire takes in Birdsville and is home to less than 300 people, will collect $108,000 a year - up from $85,000.
The huge pay hike is in keeping with Local Government regulations, but not necessarily within the spirit of the isolated community which covers an area twice the size of Denmark.
Members of the previous five-person council led by mayor Geoff Morton were also entitled to big pay hikes - which are decided independently, and released annually in the Local Government Remuneration Commission Report.
In its 2016 annual report the Commission reclassified Diamantina from a Category Three to a Category One shire, which brought it into line with remote Indigenous councils.
But the big pay increases which came with the reclassification were refused by the councillors.
They reasoned the shire which, apart from tourism and the annual Birdsville races, relies heavily on primary production, was under too much financial pressure from drought.
"We don't have a lot of ratepayers and we don't do the work that councillors do on other western Queensland councils like Longreach, for example,'' Mr Morton said.
"Our councillors have to attend a monthly meeting but don't have a whole lot of ratepayers to look after.
"We were laying off council contractors, times were tough and we just could not accept the money in good conscience so we advised the Remuneration Commission we would only accept what we reckoned we deserve.''
Mr Morton said he did not believe the new council should have accepted the pay rises this year either, as the entire country was facing a twin threat from both an economic and health perspective bought on by the Coronavirus.
"I don't think it is right _ we all have to show some restraint.''
Cr Don Rayment and Cr Steve Cramer requested that their vote against the motion to accept the pay rise be recorded.
Cr Dare, who runs the Bedourie Roadhouse, was unavailable for comment.
Originally published as 300 ratepayers but 107 per cent payrise