Gympie town hall
Gympie town hall Craig Warhurst

'State Govt acts to blame for Gympie Mayor/CEO power'

A letter to the editor by Ray Goldfinch:

CONTINUING criticism of the Mayor, CEO and some councillors by many in the community, including myself, concerning the Rattler Railway Company Ltd (RRCL) project may very well be warranted.

However, the real blame lies with past and present state governments who have enacted legislation bestowing unprecedented powers on local governments that are unrivalled compared to that of state and federal governments.

The powers vested in mayors and CEOs allow them to legally conduct and endorse decisions that encourage poor governance to thrive. The Rattler is only one example of how the Local Government Act (LGA) and Local Government Regulations (LGR) allow councils to set up beneficial enterprises which become financial burdens on the community.

Using the Rattler as an example, this project has had and will continue to place considerable financial pain on ratepayers for years to come.

At right, Mayor Mick Curren's first day as Mayor of Gympie Regional Council, to his right is CEO Bernard Smith.      Photo: Greg Miller / Gympie Times
Gympie Regional Council CEO Bernard Smith and Mayor Mick Curran. Greg Miller

The process by which council was able to set up this project under the LGA & LGR is outlined as follows:

The Rattler is a beneficial enterprise. Councils can establish beneficial enterprises as a wholly controlled enterprise or in partnership with others. It is a not-for-profit company.

Council is the founding member and has total control over the writing and enforcement of the constitution. It is a deductible gift recipient endorsed not-for-profit charity which is an entity or fund that can receive tax-deductible gifts.

The Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission Statement from the RRCL June 30 2016 claims the charity is endorsed to help "other charities, pre/post release offenders and/or their families.”

The ratepayer will never receive a return from this venture because it is a charity and will always need to be funded by the ratepayer. The most significant issue that has allowed this council to fund the Rattler is the power to apply a levy (tax) on all ratepayers to fund this charity?

Under the LGR Part 8 s103 councils can impose levies (taxes) on ratepayers to fund whatever they wish. Extract from LGR Part 8 s103 item 3, "To remove any doubt, it is declared that a local government may levy separate rates or charges for a service, facility or activity, whether or not the service, facility or activity is supplied by the local government.”

The blame for the unprecedented powers invested in local governments can be directly attributed to the LGAQ's influence over government and the direct business benefit provided to them under the LGR s234, the unchallengeable powers vested in mayors and CEOs to select the degree of transparency, accountability and community engagement and the lack of checks and balances to protect the community and ratepayers from those who use the system under the legal protection of the Act to pursue their personal agendas using public money "free money”. with little likelihood of ever being brought to account for their actions.

Gympie MP Tony Perrett, with candidates Tracey McWilliam and Chelle Dobson.
Gympie MP Tony Perrett, with candidates Tracey McWilliam and Chelle Dobson. Scott Kovacevic

All candidates need to declare their position on this issue.

They should fully acquaint themselves with the Act and regulations so they understand the inequitable social impact and the legal opportunity it offers to mayors, CEOs, councillors and other bureaucrats to advance their own agendas with little or no public consultation.

If we want change to these powers we need to demand, before casting a vote that candidates give an unconditional guarantee that they will fight to have the LGA and LGR amended to reflect community expectations of elected representatives.

Ray Goldfinch,

Mothar Mountain