If Only Shakespeare Were Here – Council Elections 2016

It’s really the saga that writes itself, Australian Politics. If Shakespeare were here today he’d have the most to gain from the material we see sprawled out through mainstream and social media. Would it be a comedy or tragedy? Many would say both. Here in my little pocket of the world I’m finding great amusement in watching the saga of the Moreton Bay Regional Council Election, like all other councils in Queensland, voters will go to the polls on March 19th.

While some often begrudge being forced to vote, many will go with enthusiasm and what I’m seeing from reading the social media commentary, it will be the enthusiasm to overthrow the current Council.

Many issues have been tabled by voters to justify their push for a Mutiny on the SS Moreton such as high expenditure of council money on the fond desires of a sentimental council to build shrines to things the current community is just not interested in, particularly when elderly residents are struggling to keep up with their rates and water bills.

It starts at the top with Bee Gees Way and whittles it’s way down to signs along a road to tell people why it’s named so. Because after years of having Australian War history shoved down our throats in schools we need a sign to tell us why Anzac Avenue is Anzac Avenue. The signs don’t even tell the actual story of why! They just tell us that Anzac Avenue is actually Anzac Memorial Avenue apparently. It’s understandable residents are not happy when there are still unusable footpaths, roads that basically disintegrate every time it rains and still not a single completely disability inclusive playground in the entire region.

anzac memorial sign

What we do have is a $2.5 million dollar shrine to a retired pop group who spent a few years living in the region, that promised locals to bring tourists to the area. They claim it has worked, it brings plenty of tourists, who then get back in their cars and keep on travelling spending very little or at the most stopping for a meal and complaining about the ocean winds. It boasts not just one but two grossly expensive statues and even had a mini replica created as a gift.

beegees 1 beegees 2 beegees minime

There’s also the highly controversial submarine at Kallangur that at a cost of around $47 thousand dollars to commemorate some obscure and very small part of the area’s history, but don’t dare suggest we have enough war memorials in a highly concentrated area, the war history buffs and other patriotic kind will jump down your throat accusing you of indecently insulting our Anzacs without even knowing that your relatives and friends returned from war permanently disabled, to very little assistance, almost no government support and relied solely on the generosity of charity organisations created for this very cause who are desperately struggling to survive having to mostly depend on fundraising while public funds are used to build memorials to those who didn’t come home and will never be able to thank us for them. PTSD? what PTSD?

One local stated the least they could have done was make the submarine usable and the next time Young’s Crossing floods again use it to ferry people back and forth since no one in the past 10 years has put any action into fixing the issue, despite an alphabet of ideas being floated. (Pun totally intended)

unyellow submarine

It’s not the only sore point for Kallangur, the low socio-economic suburb where the average rent is more than half the average income. They recently lost their library services (as did the nearby suburb of Narangba) only to be told they are welcome to use the new flashy $30 million dollar mega library complex just over the highway at North Lakes. If you don’t drive, that’s fine, get on one of the hourly buses unless of course you are disabled and the bus that turns up doesn’t accommodate you or you just can’t afford it. North Lakes won the shopping centre, the banks, the businesses and any other services that Kallangur had left and now the residents believe North Lakes has taken their library.

That wasn’t even the most savage of blows in the whole escapade. Visitors to the new library complain it’s difficult to locate where the actual library is in the building especially if you use the lift, the parking on The Corso became a fierce competition because people didn’t know just around the corner is access to undercover parking and for those who DO manage to get on a bus in a wheelchair but bugger, it’s after hours and you’re returning a book, you can wheel round and round the building for hours before discovering the after hours return is underground in the car park! Not that you can access it. There is no disability access ramp to reach it. The candle on the cake has to be the strange and creepy metal fabricated monument to the unknown outside the library that is $10 thousand dollars of blue steel and no one understands it.

north lakes blue steel

So what has council achieved after it’s first term of amalgamation? Relocation of services aside, Sport and Leisure seems to be the biggest winner with several projects successfully off the ground. This has pleased many since it benefits both young and older generations. A new App for mobile devices makes it easier than ever to send your complaints into council which is very handy since defunding the local access advisory group has meant the app is the best way to report issues of inaccessibility that could have been avoided. The pinnacles of start up projects that seem to hold things thinly in the balance of anyone in current council keeping power, are the Moreton Bay Rail Link and the University Project. Of course the rail project is infested with sore points of disgruntled locals feeling the adverse affects of the construction and traffic delays and if the University doesn’t get named the Allan Sutherland University of Moreton Bay I’ll be surprised.

The most interesting part of the election seems to be in the pages on Facebook by lobbyist groups of varying kinds. Interestingly they’re not your usual political lobbyists (maybe no one is really interested in Moreton Bay) but they are nonetheless entertaining.

We have a page called The Moreton Bay Council Has To Go that appears to have been hidden in obscurity for a few years leading up to the election, but run by a man who claims to be a ratepayer yet no one knows what he’s actually paying rates on, one thing is very clear about Eric Shields. His opinion (which is not an opinion in his opinion) is gospel and should you even try to challenge his misguided inconsistent stance on issues that’s it, you’re banned! Out you go, your constructive criticism is not wanted here. With over 500 followers there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of likes or engagement generated however there is a whole lot of borderline defamation going on. It isn’t quite clear if Eric hates everyone or just politicians but he’s chosen his “A Team” based on what he thinks are good potential councillors and you can look at his reasoning with great amusement. After declaring his disdain for candidates who nominate in one electorate but vote in another he was quick to remove the post and comments along with it denigrating another candidate when it was pointed out to him that one of his A Team were in fact doing that very thing.

I’ve known Jason Kennedy for a while now. Seems like an okay bloke. After failing in his bid to land a job in parliament at the last state election, the Greens member has thrown his hat into the much desired ring of Division 7. He lives “on the border” of the Division 7 and Division 11 electorates and he says he’s invested in Division 7 because his children go to school in that division and they shop there. Seems fair. It didn’t work out too well for Campbell Newman though. In all fairness there’s not a lot on the other side of the division boundary line with most of Division 11 being rural. One would think that would make the job somewhat easier.

Lets put this issue to bed, while Jason clearly lives in Division 11 it might be a bit much to claim to be living on the border, however you can see there’s not a great deal of urbanisation which probably means less issues. Less issues means less to campaign about. What I have found most fascinating though is reading through Jason’s campaign page on Facebook where he’s raising a lot of issues of state and federal matter and aside from Koalas, transparency and accountability seem to be his major issues with current council and he’s vowing to change that.

 

put jason to bed

Jason Kennedy lives in the vicinity of the red circle somewhere. Is it on the border? You be the judge.

put jason to bed 2

It’s been somewhat entertaining to watch the banter pan out and I confess being my bored self seeking entertainment I’ve thrown a log or two on the fire, over on a second lobbyist group (but somewhat more genuine than Eric Shields) page, MBRC Elections 2016. It appears to be run jointly by a few environmentalist groups well known for being heavily associated with the Greens and several of which Jason Kennedy is a member of the board. So there’s absolutely no room for bias at all. What is very apparent when you peruse through the page that there’s not a great deal of interest in most of the other divisions and there’s no sledging of candidates or each other in the posts for the other divisions and only a few mentions from concerned voters on matters of importance. That is until you get to the post for Division 7 and holy marsupials Batman it becomes most entertaining.

It doesn’t take long to identify supporters and here is my one and only necessary disclaimer, I am associated with a candidate on a level of personal friendship. Belinda Norrie and I have children who go to the same school and a declared passion for felines. We are fellow crazy cat ladies and sometimes enjoy a chat about kitties over coffee. On a few occasions I have worked with Belinda on community matters where she’s been incredibly knowledgeable and helpful in seeing that my voice is heard. I’m grateful to her for that.

What you do notice is that Belinda Norrie must be the biggest threat to Jason Kennedy since she’s the only candidate he seems to mention in comments and posts. While earlier on it was somewhat ambiguously referred to, it’s now open and out there that he is not at all happy about the fact that Belinda works for a real estate agent. They’re the devils those real estate agents. Regardless of the fact that she’s actually a property manager and not a property developer and anyone and everyone who moves through the circles of Division 7 seems to know this. Her clients love her. Not satisfied that she hasn’t declared it in BIG LETTERS on every tiny piece of campaign information she puts out there that she is employed in a respectable job by JH Grant Realty, several people kept raising the issue accusing her of lying because Belinda mentioned in her campaign information that

“as a qualified Human Services Worker, I am well aware of the desperate need for community and youth services in Division 7.”

Fact is that Belinda does happen to be qualified in Human Services with a Bachelor of Social Science and having worked in the community services industry for almost ten years before switching to real estate property management. Knowing how rental properties work and the trials and tribulations that go with being a property manager I can say her skills from Human Services are very well utilised in her new field.

It gets better though. Belinda Norrie, like most other candidates who want their name seen so it’s recognised on the ballot paper, put out signs by door knocking the neighbourhood and politely asking. This is a really difficult task as you can imagine, many doors are slammed in your face and rejections are higher than success. That’s just a given in politics and people are very precious about their properties. As it turns out, one of the kind people who agreed to put up a sign for her happens to be someone who is someone in a union. Uh oh, look out, environmentalist and lobby groups are okay, unions are apparently an unforgivable sin.

My one time belief that regular old politics was not relevant in Council politics is now out the window because it is also apparently unforgivable that Belinda has not declared herself a member of the ALP. It’s quite acceptable to be a member of the Greens and even have run in an election for them but unacceptable for any other party. Mildly amused by this I have noted that there’s been no question of any of the other three candidates of their membership of any other political party. Or organisation. Should they declare their membership of the Crazy Cat Lady Association? Or does that not give enough leverage to spew hate into the public arena? Mind you while Belinda tried very hard to be diplomatic and take it all with a grain of salt, every strong woman has a folding point and she reached hers at being told she’s deceitful when every other bloody candidate has something they’re tiptoeing around. Since Jason’s lobbyists seemed to be the ones to launch the attacks she came back firing and Jason was the target since he is supposedly the fearless leader of the brigade.

Meanwhile as these two are hashing it out, here over in the corner sitting very quietly are the other three candidates.

Denise Sims it seems has been endorsed by outgoing councillor David Dwyer having her picture taken with him anywhere and everywhere which locals are finding absolutely astounding since in the past four years trying to get a meeting with him is like picking the winner at the Melbourne Cup. When you do happen to nail him down the conversation is somewhat abstract and far from the issue you’re trying to discuss. This is my personal knowledge having met with him on a few occasions to raise various issues and I found myself leaving feeling relieved just to get away. Denise seems to manage him quite well and it’s interesting to see how much she replicates his interests. Even when trying to discuss certain issues when she raises them in posts on her campaign page, her response is almost identical to David’s in the past. I’d be happy to discuss it with you in person, and the ball is left, bouncing from kinetic energy in your court until it comes to a stop and rolls out of your reach. Happens often to people with disabilities.

The matter of disability access is apparently a contentious one to raise because it catches candidates out. Having been told flat out by David Dwyer in the past that we don’t build parks accessible because it’s too expensive and they get vandalised, I hoped for a better response from Denise Sims. Not surprised though when the response was of no consequence to the question and the mention of other people she’d met with disabilities came out sounding so typically 1950’s I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and go into education mode explaining that we prefer not to refer to wheelchair users as being wheelchair bound and just because you were introduced to two people with disabilities that David Dwyer has been exploiting for his own political benefits for some time, doesn’t mean you’re on our side.

At least I have the attention of these three. We are now left with but two of the silent minority. Talasoga McMahon who has a great history of working in community service organisations in our region and a great deal of heart, doesn’t appear to have a great deal of knowledge about local issues. It’s like some of the candidates running in this election have just looked up issues in the local paper, organise a photo shoot and post about it on social media. Where is the action people? What have you been doing for the past four years while the rest of us have been fighting issue after issue and statue after statue? Talasoga can only hope that while her movement amongst the community seems to have been limited to her very lovely and friendly cultural network, that they are large enough a network to get her votes up.

Steve O’Shanessy or as some locals refer to him “Steve Who?” is the wildcard candidate. All we really know about him so far is that his big vote for me claim is he is the only truly self funded candidate having dug into his retirement savings to fund his campaign and he plans to bring his business knowledge to council. As far as local issues are concerned, well, maybe if you want to increase the friend count of “Steve O’Sh” on Facebook from 10, you can ask him.

Just think, this is all in one little division! Just wait until I get started on the candidacy for the office of Mayor!

If you’ve got a local issue you want to discuss, feel free to email me and we can talk

Elisha “Friday” Wright
Local Community Correspondent and disabled woman with nothing better to do than read Facebook.
fridayology@gmail.com

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