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Council clashes on class wars

By YVONNE McLEAN

HOT heads on council and in the public gallery caused last Monday's full council meeting to dissolve into chaos, forcing acting mayor Bob La Castra to close proceedings and call for those in the public gallery to leave and apologise for their loud interjections.

This ugly scene occurred during a debate over the status of councillors flying out on council business ? squeezed up in economy class or relaxing in the comfort of business class.

This was always going to be a powder keg issue and the fuse was lit during a passionate argument from Cr Eddy Sarroff that members wishing to travel business class should pay the difference.

Applause from the gallery and vocal remarks brought a provacative response from Cr Ray Hackwood who referred to the gallery as a rent-a-mob.

Then the scene was out of control.

Cr La Castra (standing in for Mayor Ron Clarke who was in Bundaberg honouring a commitment) had little choice but to adjourn the meeting, the first time in the life of the present council.

Senior council officers took more than 30 minutes to calm down a number of visitors in the public gallery, furious about Cr Hackwood's remarks and angry that they would pick up the tab for comfort travelling.

"We are not a mob, we are concerned ratepayers," a tearful Joan Hoare said.

"They (Crs) obviously don't want anyone at all in the public gallery."

When the meeting did resume to an almost empty gallery a majority council voted for members to fly business class on flights longer than three hours in Australia and business class on all overseas flights.

Crs Eddy Sarroff, Dawn Crichlow, Suzie Douglas, Peter Young and Rob Moulhoek voted in the negative.

Later Cr Daphne McDonald, a stickler for decorum in council, said she was disturbed and disgusted by the row.

"There were faults on both sides but those in the public gallery have to excercise control otherwise meetings will disintegerate."

Cr McDonald said that she had voted for business class travel on long flights because of her personal knowledge of how thrombosis can attack attack long haul travellers.

More is likely to be heard of this controversial issue which revealed once again the animosity that exists between some elected members.



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