Queensland govt to sack Ipswich Council
The Queensland government will introduce laws to sack embattled Ipswich Council when parliament resumes in August.
Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe on Monday announced plans to legislate the council’s removal and appointment of administrators to run things until March 2020, when the next council elections are due.
“After a year of turmoil, arrests and multiple charges and a recent Supreme Court challenge, it is time to give the Ipswich community certainty,” Mr Hinchliffe told reporters.
“It will ensure we don’t have a legal circus going on for months and months where you see challenges at every step of the process set out under the Local Government Act and, potentially, challenges at different jurisdictions and different courts.”
It is the strongest move taken by the government against the beleaguered council and comes six weeks after laws were passed giving the minister beefed-up powers to sack officials.
Hours earlier, prosecutors indicated fresh criminal charges against former mayor Paul Pisasale were likely.
Fifteen current and former council members, including Pisasale and suspended mayor Andrew Antoniolli have been slapped with a total of 75 charges under an ongoing Crime and Corruption Commission investigation.
Mr Hinchliffe had previously agreed not to act on a second notice issued to the council to show cause as to why it should not be sacked until after a Supreme Court hearing set down for July 31.
His promise had temporarily placated remaining councillors, who responded angrily to the backflip.
Paul Tully, Queensland’s longest serving councillor, labelled the decision undemocratic, saying it pre-empted the court’s decision and targeted innocent people.
“People will see this as being grossly unfair,” he said.
“If you’re sacked by an act of parliament, I’ll wear that as a badge of honour. I will hold my head up high until the day I die.”
Labor backbencher Jo-Ann Miller, whose Bundamba electorate covers parts of Ipswich, said ratepayers must elect councillors who offer the city a fresh start and hold them to account.
“We should never allow a situation where the city becomes under siege again,” she said.
Local Government Association of Queensland President Mark Jamieson said the announcement was “profoundly regrettable if understandable” and extended sympathies to the councillors who would lose their jobs despite no suggestion of wrongdoing.
The Liberal National Party has already demanded a seat at the table when potential administrators are considered, with Deputy Leader Tim Mander calling on Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to guarantee they would have no connection to the Labor party.
Mr Mander said the move showed legislation passed in May to bolster the government’s ability to sack or suspend councils and councillors was flawed.