Youngblutt retreats on moron gibe
TWEED'S deputy mayor Phil Youngblutt has admitted comments in which he described many voters as morons were “perhaps badly worded”.
Instead he has moved to clarify the comments, saying they reflected his concern that not everyone who votes does so in an informed manner.
Cr Youngblutt's remarks to the Tweed Daily News 10 days ago were picked up by national media and prompted a torrent of Letters to the Editor from readers who took offence.
In a carefully worded written statement Cr Youngblutt said he wanted to take the opportunity to clarify the comments by providing the context in which his statements were made.
They came about during a discussion on whether the Tweed should have a popularly elected mayor, in the wake of last month's selection of both the mayor and deputy in draws of names from a cardboard box following tied voting.
“The Tweed Shire Council employs 650 people, numerous contractors and has a budget of approximately $200 million,” said Cr Youngblutt.
“Unfortunately, the most-popular elected councillor does not always mean the best-qualified councillor to run an organisation of this size and complexity.
“Therefore, I believe the best practice is the current one, whereby the elected representatives consider the strengths of their fellow councillors and select the best contender for the position of mayor and deputy mayor.
“The tenure for these positions is one year, and at that time, the councillors carefully consider the efficacy of the holders of these positions when the yearly elections are held.”
Mr Youngblutt went on to say: “Unfortunately, there is an element of political apathy within any Australian voting community.
“Whist many countries in the world are striving for the political freedom and the democratic process which we enjoy, in Australia sadly, many take the wonderful responsibility of being able to vote as a burden; it interrupts their weekend.
“My comments, perhaps badly worded, reflected my concern that not everyone actively engages in the democratic process, and therefore they often do not vote in an informed manner by seriously considering who they vote for at the ballot box - often not voting for the representative that they think can best shape our community.”
Some councillors have discussed lodging a “code of conduct” complaint with the secretive “conduct review panel” against Cr Youngblutt for “bringing the council into disrepute” by his earlier remarks. But it is unknown if any have done so due to the panel's secrecy provisions.
Yesterday the Council's general manager Mike Rayner said it would “not be appropriate to make any comment in regard to any code of conduct issues”.
Former mayor Joan van Lieshout said Mr Youngblutt needed to “be careful” in his comments now that he is deputy mayor.
“Cr Youngblutt needs to remember he represents the whole of Council as deputy mayor,” said Cr van Lieshout.
“The community would require far better comments. I think it was quite insulting what he said.”