Councillor and mayoral candidates gain early insight into life in City Hall

Prospective councillor and mayoral candidates have come away from Ipswich City Council’s first Candidate Information Session a little clearer on roles and responsibilities, do’s and don’ts, and understanding potential conflicts of interest.

About 60 people attended the two-hour event at the North Ipswich Reserve Corporate Centre and heard from council, state government and Electoral Commission of Queensland officials.

Four people have so far declared they will contest the mayoralty, while 11 others have said they will nominate as councillors for the 28 March 2020 local government elections. Most were in the audience and also asked questions of the panel of experts at the end of the night.

Of the former Ipswich City councillors dismissed by the state government last year, only one, who is contesting the race to be mayor, was in attendance on Tuesday night. None of the others has yet to confirm if they are standing again.

The event was also broadcast live on social media. Watch it here.

Interim Administrator Greg Chemello outlined the 50-page Election 101 document he had put together, Ipswich, it’s your council: a candidate guide for Ipswich City Council.

He said the candidate checklist and other key chapters – including, what good governance means, the challenges and opportunities ahead, and your election campaign – would be of enormous benefit to potential councillors and the wanna-be mayor.

CEO David Farmer detailed the amazing growth statistics of the city, with population expected to double from the current 220,000 by the 2030s, and said the revival of Ipswich presented huge challenges and opportunities for an incoming council team.

ECQ’s Bill Hey and Matthew Thurlby briefed the audience on the new electoral system for Ipswich (four divisions, two councillors in each, plus a mayor) and new legislation brought in by the state government regarding declaration of expenses, gifts and donations.

The Department of Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs’ Rebecca McAnalen, principal advisor to the state’s 77 councils, backgrounded the audience on how Ipswich came to be under administration, the work of the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) and how the Queensland Government would provide ongoing support to council.

About 20 questions were then put to the panel (pictured below), including some from the social media audience, and several focussed on expense declarations, expenditure caps and conflicts of interest.

A question from the floor dealt with identifying Ipswich’s strengths and weaknesses. Mr Farmer said there was a unique opportunity for the new council to create a vibrant future for the city, but the greatest risk was it not being done well.

Another question related to the culture within council and the current “mood’ among staff, following allegations of being “poorly treated” in the past. Mr Chemello said there were 1300 people employed by council and they would give 1300 different answers to that question.

“Everyone has dealt with the situation (since councillors were dismissed) in different ways. Some have departed, some have hung in there. Some are excited about the future, some are very nervous,” he said.

Both Mr Chemello and Mr Farmer said it could take 6-12 months of elected representatives being in place before people could “relax” and that would largely be governed by “appropriate behaviour”.

One person asked about the role of future councillors. Mr Chemello said myths had been spread that only councillors could solve community problems, such as fixing potholes, but that would not be the case under the business transformation program he had introduced. He encouraged residents to take operational matters directly to council staff.

Asked what were the greatest challenges facing incoming councillors, Mr Chemello ended the evening by saying they would have to deal with unprecedented growth and a “changing and evolving city”.

A second candidate information session will be held at the same North Ipswich venue on Tuesday 4 February, 2020 (6-8pm).

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