Former Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale. Picture: AAP/Regi Varghese
Former Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale. Picture: AAP/Regi Varghese

Long wait for the people of Ipswich

IT'S been just over a year since former Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale stunned Queensland by announcing his resignation while wearing bright red pyjama pants and a hospital robe.

Yet the enormously popular veteran mayor's sudden decision to quit amid a widening probe by Queensland's corruption watchdog has only proved to be the beginning, rather than the end, of the drama that has engulfed the city.

Pisasale's elected successor Andrew Antoniolli has been suspended after being charged with several fraud offences and breaching his bail conditions. Another 14 people, including former senior council staffers, have also been charged by the Crime and Corruption Commission. There's no reason to believe that more offences by others won't emerge in future.

Paul Pisasale announces his resignation as Ipswich mayor. Picture: AAP/Stuart Layt
Paul Pisasale announces his resignation as Ipswich mayor. Picture: AAP/Stuart Layt

Ipswich residents must be rightly asking when this saga will come to an end so the city can have a functioning local government focused on the future rather than looking over its shoulder for law enforcement officials.

Unfortunately, the Palaszczuk Government has been laborious when it comes to playing its part in bringing closure closer for Ipswich residents.

Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe announced on Wednesday that he had issued the Ipswich City Council with another "show cause" notice over why the remaining councillors should not be sacked and a fresh election held.

The minister has given the council until next Friday to respond.

This comes 27 days after Mr Hinchliffe issued the council with its first "show cause" notice.

The minister may be studiously following process with this approach.

It may ensure the council is subject to broader powers given to the minister under laws pushed through State Parliament by the Palaszczuk Government recently in response to the unfolding scandal in Ipswich and other council areas.

However, Mr Hinchliffe's record hardly engenders confidence that he will handle this process effectively or even find a way through without creating new problems.

During his stint as planning minister in the Bligh government between 2009 and 2011, Mr Hinchliffe riled industry over perceived inaction on a raft of policy fronts.

Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe speaks to media about Ipswich City Council on Wednesday. Picture: Peter Wallis
Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe speaks to media about Ipswich City Council on Wednesday. Picture: Peter Wallis

When Queensland Rail was in a timetable meltdown in 2016, Mr Hinchliffe as transport minister found time to be trackside during the Gold Coast V8 race. He later quit that role.

And just last month, Mr Hinchliffe announced the suspension of four mayors and a councillor under new laws that weren't actually in place.

Hopefully, that episode of ineptitude would have sharpened Mr Hinchliffe's focus on ensuring the process around removing the Ipswich City Council is foolproof. However, that hope may yet be misplaced.

Why, for example, did the Government issue the council with the initial "show cause" notice in early May if it was planning to push through new power for the minister a fortnight later?

Why wait for the deadline for responding to the first "show cause" notice to expire before asking the council to respond to further matters via another fresh show cause notice.

Given the minister's new powers have been in place since May 21, why wait until June 20 to act?

It won't be until March 2020 when council elections are due statewide that Ipswich residents will be able to elect a new team to manage its local affairs.

Let's hope that's more than enough time for the minister to act.

 

Responsibility for election comment is taken by Sam Weir, corner of Mayne Rd & Campbell St, Bowen Hills, Qld 4006. Printed and published by NEWSQUEENSLAND (ACN 009 661 778). Contact details are available at www.couriermail.com.au/help/contact-us



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