‘Abomination’: Council makes mayor the only spokesman
A MAJORITY vote to strip all councillors bar mayor Tyson Golder and deputy mayor Geoff McMullen of their authority to publicly speak on behalf of Maranoa Regional Council has been described as “an abomination” and an attempt to “muzzle” councillors in a dramatic meeting.
The resolution, ‘elect the mayor to be the spokesman in press releases and if he is not available, the deputy mayor to be’, was lumped in with four other proposals, passed on a 6-3 vote after a fierce exchange of words and some passionate speeches.
The motion states in Cr Golder’s absence, Cr McMullen will be the only councillor allowed to speak on behalf of council, including in press releases.
Unity Maranoa councillors Golder, Julie Guthrie, Mark Edwards, John Birkett, and George Ladbrook, and independent deputy mayor Geoff McMullen all voted in favour of the motion.
But Crs Johanne Hancock, Cameron O’Neil and Wendy Taylor were not happy about the proposals and sternly voted against it.
Cr O’Neil said solely electing the mayor to speak on behalf of all aspects of council was “puzzling.”
“What I have a problem with is that this resolution will strip the opportunity of the six new councillors in this chamber of having the same opportunities that Cr McMullen did, and the mayor did in the past four years, and myself in the last eight,” Cr O’Neil said.
“Why would you support a resolution that does not afford you the same opportunities that the people that serve you in this chamber have had before you?
“To be a spokesperson for your community on the decisions that you’re making in here is one of the highest responsibilities that you have in this chamber.”
Cr Birkett shook his head as Cr O’Neil explained how he would like to see him on ABC Radio talking about sporting fields and infrastructure in Mitchell.
“But if this is supported today, it cannot happen,” Cr O’Neil said.
In a sign of the growing division in the Maranoa Regional Council, Cr O’Neil attempted to appeal to his colleagues to have a voice on council matters.
“If it makes people happy, add into the resolution that everyone speaks bar Cr O’Neil - right? “If that would mean that it would get up, I would be happy not to be the spokesperson for the next four years if it meant that all of the people in this chamber that were new were afforded the same opportunities that new councillors should be and that’s to grow into the role of being a strong representative for the community that put you here.”
He said any councillor that speaks to the media only speak on their own personal opinion and not on behalf of Maranoa Regional Council.
“I think this is an absolute abomination and should be voted down today,” Cr O’Neil said.
Cr Hancock also spoke vehemently on the motion, describing it as a “major concern” and did not understand the reason for it.
“When the mayor is putting forward to not have portfolios, and for the mayor and deputy mayor to be the only spokespeople for council - it feels to me - Mr Mayor, that you’re trying to muzzle your fellow councillors.
“I’m sure the community would like to see that all nine councillors that were elected, are working hard for the region, not just two councillors, which would how it would look if this motion was successful.”
Cr Hancock then expressed concern over Crs Golder and McMullen speaking on behalf of resolutions they vote down.
“If this motion is successful today, Mr mayor, can you assure to council that you will be the spokesperson on all the decisions of council, including the decisions they you disagree on and vote against?” Cr Hancock said.
“Or will they be the ones that Cr McMullen will have to speak on?
“And then what happens when you both disagree with the resolution?
“Who will be the spokesperson then?”
Cr Golder spoke on the motions and said the number one priority of council is efficiency.
“I believe with this flexibility, we will have the most efficient running of the local government,” he said.
“I’ve been the mayor in the past term and I believe these points here will make us the most exciting, productive council that we can be.
It’s not about, in my opinion, personal likes and dislikes, it’s about the whole nine councillors being involved.”
Cr McMullen confirmed in the meeting that, “there’s nothing stopping [the media] from ringing any councillor and they can speak in their own personal opinion if they wish.”