A former councillor sends strong warning

IN 1978, the Queensland Premier, the late Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, called the then Gold Coast City councillors to his Brisbane office and sacked them. With him was his right-hand man, Local Government Minister, the late Russell Hinze.

One of the sacked councillors, former deputy mayor Betty Diamond, remembers the occasion as if it were yesterday.

"It alarms me that this could happen again, because no matter how talented administrators may be, one of the most vital aspects of the democratic process ? the public voice ? is lost," she said.

"After we were all sacked, there was no debate, no divisional representation and I well remember that some developments refused by council went ahead and on occasions the town planning rules were relaxed and in some instances, a commercial enterprise was allowed in a residential A zoning.

"Missing at that time were the keys to council decisionmaking, public opinion, committee recommendations and full debate. Those seeking to have the present council sacked should ponder that," Mrs Diamond said.

"I recall well the sigh of relief around the community when new elections were called in 1979 and democracy, as we enjoy it, was restored."

Mrs Diamond has remained an astute council observer since her retirement in 1988.

"There is no question that this council has some concerning personality black spots. In my opinion some members of the so-called big bloc are too free with their criticism of the rest ? seemingly intolerant of an opposing view," she said.

She believes the present council was placed under enormous pressure through amalgamation.

There was a strong feeling in the community that council's closeness to the people had been lost.

All this adds to the stress and unrest that has led to the CMC investigation, she said.

"The present council, running an area of such diverse communities, coping with perhaps too high expectations in service and facilities must be given credit for its achievements," she said.

"It is hard to imagine that the personal animosities can't be set aside when this council has so many exciting challenges ahead," she said.

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