By Ipswich City Council Acting Mayor Wayne Wendt
One of the great things about Australia is that it is built on a platform of democracy. As citizens, we know that we won’t always be in the majority on all issues. But we know we will be heard, and that our voice will be valued alongside those of our fellow country men and women.
Over the past week, Ipswich City Council has been posed with the possibility of expulsion. Despite an election, there is a very real threat that the collective voice of the people could be overturned. Councillors openly acknowledge that there have been multiple allegations pointed at people either employed by, or who have worked with, this council – albeit none of them yet proven.
While we do not know all the details of every charge, we do know a couple of very important things:
- That many of the charges relate to paperwork.
- That many of the charges relate to charitable donations.
- That most of the events which led to allegations happened more than 12 months ago, some of them dating back seven or eight years.
We also know that each councillor was elected on a mantra of honesty, accountability and trust that we serve in the best interests of all who live in this fine city. There are offices in each of 10 Divisions, and I for one can certify with some authority that we hear your thoughts and opinions daily.
We also hear your needs, and it is our job to relay those issues to council staff for assessment, and indeed action. This is what our constituency voted us to do – to work hard, and to make our community as liveable as any city in the world. Where we live is our home, and we all want to be proud of who we are.
Democracy makes this happen. Every four years, everyone over the age of 18 gets their chance to say who they believe is best positioned to make positive things happen. Collectively, it is the public’s right to maintain the status quo. It is also their right to initiate change.
The State Government, if it decides to take this right from the hands of the people, is questioning a system on which this great nation was built. Such a decision also risks taking away a right to representation, a simple system whereby people can approach their local councillor to make a complaint, offer a pat on the back, or suggest ways their community can be more beautiful, safer, or inherently functional.
Most of us do what we do because we care, because we are part of the community we represent, because we are proud to call our constituency “home”. Yes, there will be individuals who will have their day in court. That too, is part of the democratic system. But to take a fundamental right – the right to have a say – from the hands of the people is not the way to serve perceived justice.