Meet mayor-elect Cr Andrew Antoniolli. One of his election commitments was to launch an ‘Ask Andrew’ column, so each week we’ll be compiling a list of your questions. There will no doubt be the occasional curve ball thrown Cr Antoniolli’s way, but he says he’s happy to answer all types of thoughts. Each week, we’ll choose about six questions. Please note that some queries might require some research to answer properly, so don’t worry if yours isn’t answered straight away. Rest assured, the incoming mayor will endeavour to answer as many questions as he can.
Making history is not new for Andrew Antoniolli. In March 2000 the then 29-year-old was elected to Ipswich City Council as the youngest councillor to be elected in 21 years and the second youngest in the city’s history. Now he’s been elected the city’s 50th mayor. With a lifetime devoted to community service, Cr Antoniolli is looking forward to the challenges ahead as he takes on the city’s top job. Ipswich First sat down with the mayor-elect to find out what residents can expect.
What is the first action you will take to restore community confidence in council?
During the campaign I raised several issues around transparency and my first focus will be on tackling those, particularly focusing on the council-owned companies.
I also want to look at ways we can improve council meetings and committee meetings to ensure there is more information available in agendas and minutes.
I think undertaking a forensic audit of council’s finances will also help instil confidence. I will be consulting with the Queensland Audit Office about the best way to take this forward. I do want to say that I have complete faith in the Queensland Audit Office and council’s finance staff. It might be the case that we need to tighten up a few of our processes but I don’t expect wholesale changes to occur.
What style of leader will you be – should the community expect big changes or subtle changes over time?
I’ve been a leader in many different environments, be it sport or as a police officer where I was an officer in charge of a station. Every leader is different. I think my style is more about collaboration and importantly it’s about taking people with me.
I think the former mayor (Paul Pisasale) did a wonderful job of making himself larger than life and ensuring the focus was on him and the city. I think my difference will be that while I recognise I have to put myself out there I believe we are a team of 11 and it should be the role of the mayor to ensure all councillors shine. It won’t just be all about me.
What do you see as the greatest challenges facing the City of Ipswich?
The immediate challenge facing Ipswich is to overcome community concern that currently exists as a result of recent events. That is vitally important and I am hoping I can address most of that by Christmas.
Lifting community pride is another big one. I think that the pride of the city has been dented a little of late and we need to do some work to boost it again.
Beyond the immediate, youth unemployment is on the lips of most local people and is a significant concern for the community. Certainly part of my role is to work with other levels of government to address unemployment and particularly youth unemployment. We need to be focused on more than just low skilled jobs; we also need to focus on generating medium and high skill jobs.
Now that you have the top job, where do you see the City of Ipswich in five years?
In five years I see our CBD being a hive of activity and us anticipating the next development in the CBD and how that will link in with the existing redevelopment and the new city square.
I see that we’re going to continue to have enormous growth and the challenge of that will be to find ways that we get good sustainable outcomes. I’d like to think that in five years we will be seen as an example of how to bring sustainability to a rapidly growing city and I also believe we will continue to be seen as an innovative council, a reputation we’ve enjoyed for many years.
We’ve recently seen two councils in Melbourne vote to drop Australia Day ceremonies, what’s your take on this issue?
The day itself is historic, for a number of people in the community it represents something dark and a day that had an enormous negative impact on their history. I don’t think that is recognised enough by the remainder of the community however changing the day does not change history.
Reconciliation needs to be an everyday practice and Australia Day should be about bringing people together. We can’t change the history of the day but we can change the future of how we celebrate it. If we can celebrate it in a way that is respectful of the country we have now become as well as working through the negativity and ensure we have reconciliation at the heart of the day I think we can move past this divisive issue.
When it is a day that divides people, changing the day does not change the division. We should be focused less on the day and more on getting positive outcomes for our indigenous community and helping to heal the wounds of history.
You’ve promised to make council more accessible to the community, how will you do that?
One of the ways is to make sure we have more information available through our committee and council agendas and minutes. Another way is to film our council meetings. I would like to think we can move to recording and broadcasting committee meetings in the future as well but I’d like to start that process with council meetings initially.
I’d also like to see council putting a lot more information on the Open Data portal so that people can see more information about how their council operates. Exploring new ways for councillors to engage with the community is also important and will be something we explore.
What happens now?
Now the mayoral by-election result is official, the next step is for Councillor Andrew Antoniolli to be sworn in as Ipswich’s 50th mayor.
That is expected to happen later this week. Once that happens, Acting Mayor Paul Tully will return to his role of Deputy Mayor and Division 2 Councillor.
The new mayor will then work with his colleagues to determine the make-up of council committees, and who will chair them.
Incoming mayor Andrew Antoniolli with returing officer Peter Gordon.
To ask mayor-elect Cr Andrew Antoniolli a question, please use this form, and please keep your query to 50 words or less. Please note that some questions require research, which means they might not be responded to immediately. Rest assured however, that it is Cr Antoniolli’s intention to answer as many questions as possible.