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The Australian laments outcome of Queensland local government elections

The editorial writers of newspapers from Rupert Murdoch's News Limited, including the Courier Mail and The Australian, are not shy in showing their contempt for public opinion whenever it runs counter to the powerful vested interests they represent. Examples from recent years include their support for:

  • The privatisation of Telstra
  • The privatisation of NSW's electricity generation
  • 'Work Choices'
  • The Iraq war
  • The Mary River Dam1
  • Queensland forced local government amalgamations

Naturally, in 2007, with local governments such as the Douglas Shire Council and the Noosa Shire Council receptive to the wishes of their constituents to stand up to developers, the News Limited editorial writers gave their full support to the Queensland government's forced local government amalgamations inspired by the Property Council of Australia2.

However, the hopes The Australian held out for in these amalgamations came unstuck when, on Saturday 15 March, anti-development candidates standing in the amalgamated shires were able to overcome the additional difficulties posed by their having to campaign in larger shires and were able to defeat candidates backed by developers. These included the Cairns City Council into which the Douglas Shire had been forcibly amalgamated and the Greater Sunshine Coast Council into which the Noosa shire had been forcibly amalgamated. In at least two other large local government regions, the Gold Coast City Council and Redland City Council, anti-development tickets won control in spite of extravagant developer-funded advertising campaigns against them.

In response, on 18 March an editorial entitled "Queensland faces a tougher job on regional development"3 was published. It commenced:

Queensland's local government elections demonstrate the difficulty that beset public administrators trying to manage the competing demands of population growth.

The 'difficulty' being that electors in those council areas were not prepared to put up with the further degradations to their quality of life necessitated by continuous population growth. As has become the established practice with the Murdoch Press, the question as to whether population growth is an issue over which affected communities should have any say, is not even posed, rather population growth is treated implicitly as a given over which no power in Heaven or on Earth can have any control:

... the Queensland (state government) must grapple with an influx of thousands of new residents each week and deliver, health, education and other public services.

In fact, the choice is being made, but instead of it being made by the affected communities, it is being made by politicians, like Queensland Premier Anna Bligh, who serve the same vested interests as does the Murdoch media. They include principally the aforementioned Property Council of Australia, whose members gain from population growth, through land speculation and property development, at the expense of the rest of the community, the environment and future generations.

To be sure, there is a moral ambivalence to this issue as many who oppose today's population growth were part of yesterday's additions to the population to those areas and the editorial writer seeks to gain from this the high moral ground:

... much of the growth comprises city refugees making a sea change to what they consider their own piece of paradise. From Cairns to Coolangatta, it was easy to detect a determined anti-development flavour to much of the voting on the weekend's election.

A 'flavour' that the editorial writer makes clear he/she wishes to be ignored by the state and federal governments. It is interesting that The Australian is silent on what the sea changers were seeking 'refuge' from, namely the over-crowding of Australia's capital cities, which has been greatly encouraged by the Murdoch media through its past promotion of population growth.

Of the triumph of Val Schier over the long-serving pro-developer Cairns Mayor Kevin Byrne, the editorialist opined, this "will test the state Government's willingness to use independent panels to make decisions on development applications". Supposedly 'independent' panels are made up of people who, unlike popularly elected councillors, are not accountable to the residents who will be affected by their decisions. In this way it is hoped that the opposition to over-development can be swept aside.

The editorial acknowledges that the "new batch of local leaders can legitimately argue that they have a mandate to resist change." It, nevertheless, concludes:

Amalgamation has happened, but given the weekend results, the reform push is clearly unfinished business.

Can we come to any other conclusion from this editorial except that the 'reform push' is expected to be 'finished' by the use of dictatorial state government powers to over-ride the democratic wishes of Queensland communities?

Footnotes

1. See The Australian newspaper backs environmental vandalism in the Mary Valley of 5 Jan 08.

2. See story Cate Molloy : Forced council amalgamations planned by Property Council of Australia of 7 Sep 07

3. Unable to obtain URL for this editorial.

Comments

Oh, please! Rupert Murdoch's News Inc is the OWNER of the Queensland Courrier Mail which covered the elections in such a partial fashion in a manner to PROMOTE those who facilitate property development, including an employee of the Australian Property Council. (See article "Why the Brisbane Mayoral elections should not have been 'boring'")

Someone should do a study about whether courses for journalists have greatly dropped their matriculation requirements in the past 20 years. Would this explain the total naivety of editors and journalists on this subject?
Certainly, where journalists were once taken from a population of all kinds of writers and specialists, they are now taken from journalism schools in Universities which must please industry in order to attract funds.
Oh, and also, many journalists are really writers for the industries, and paid for by the industries.

This is a GREAT ARTICLE.
The Australian should hang its head in shame and publish this article with an apology to the Australian public.
Pierre Fascogale