Politics Noosa style.  Conspiracies, fabrications, trolls and dog whistles

In the sport of Queensland politics, Noosa is a bit like some Olympic water polo games you might have seen on TV.  Hands waving and heads bobbing calmly on the surface.  Just beneath the waves…kicking, gouging and blood in the water.  Up close, it’s not pretty to watch.

For the vast majority of residents, the question of who runs our Council is something to briefly contend with, then put out of the way with a few strokes of a pencil – once every four years. 

But with that pencil, they hold the power to improve or dramatically diminish their lifestyle.  The power of politics really is local. And it matters.

So what – in my opinion – is this Noosa election about?

It should be a contest of ideas and policies. A search for talent.  Instead some have made it about politics, ideology and power.  Especially power.

Cast your mind back four years.  Mayor Tony Wellington didn’t know it, but he was about to be narrowly defeated by an unknown, but well-connected and ambitious LNP candidate – Clare Stewart – with $70,000 to spend, ten times his tiny campaign war chest.  For Ms Stewart it was a stepping stone to what she hopes will be an LNP political career in state parliament, if she can shove Sandy Bolton out of the way.

The low point of that last campaign – and there were a few – was the FUTURE NOOSA debacle involving, among others, former Councillor Ingrid Jackson and property developer Leigh McCready.  McCready was campaign manager for the team, which claimed loudly and repeatedly it had no connections with any property developers. Queensland’s Independent Council Election Observer (ICEO) found the team’s claims to be “false” and “misleading”, and only Karen Finzel was elected from this discredited group.

Jackson and McCready have remained close allies, often politically aligned – although perhaps not so friendly with – Mayor Stewart and Councillors Karen Finzel and Amelia Lorentson.

Here’s where that kicking and gouging beneath the surface comes in.

Deputy Mayor Frank Wilkie and Councillors Stockwell, Wegener and Jurisevic are far from a team (in fact Wilkie doesn’t even preference anyone else at election time) but they have all voted consistently with what are considered ‘mainstream’ Noosa values…placing the environment and residents first on issues like STA, respecting the Town Plan and river protection.

It’s pretty difficult to attack those values, so instead the attack has become personal.

Starting with the Jacksons some seven years ago – and carried on by the voting ‘bloc’ of Stewart, Lorentson and Finzel in recent years – there’s been a steady whispering campaign and unsubstantiated complaints about “bullying” and a “men’s club”.  When the environment and resident-first blokes disagree with the ‘bloc’, they’re dubbed “bullies”.

This fiction spreads quickly in the dark corners of Noosa’s Facebook troll communities.  

To independent observers of Council, it’s clearly an artifice.  But mud sticks.  That’s why it’s thrown.

Other fictions are piled on as well.  One of the most outrageous concerns a Council staff recommendation that Noosa Council should consider – and consult the public about – a Conservation Park for parts of the Noosa River.  This would allow Noosa Council, finally, to have a say in the management of the river and to better tackle issues like the rotting houseboats parked there permanently.   The State has proved a distant, disconnected and ineffective sole manager of our river’s health.

There are two deliberate fabrications here.

  1. That the River Conservation Park proposal would take away fishing and boating rights.  It wouldn’t.  This lie is being spread by propagandists in the Boating and Fishing Alliance, and eagerly picked up by several candidates.  The proposal would simply give our Council a say in the management of its own river.
  2. That the Conservation Park proposal emerged “secretly” and “without consultation”. In fact senior Council staff proposed it in a perfectly routine way. The proposal had – baked into it – thorough and lengthy public consultation before any action.  Those who voted against it voted to shut down public consultation on the idea.

At the most recent candidate forum at The J, only one mayoral candidate, Deputy Mayor Frank Wilkie, addressed this issue accurately on behalf of the Council staff who simply believe Noosa should have some say in what happens on its river.

The dog whistling becomes loud and clear

In amongst what passes for campaigning, there’s a handful of conspiracy theorists, propagandists and people just looking for a paid job.  It’s hard to pick the bottom of this campaign barrel, but let me try.

Voters will have struggled to avoid seeing pictures of the shire’s most prolific self-publicist. Leigh McCready, who – as we have said – was found by the ICEO in the last campaign to be a Property Developer, despite “false” and “misleading” claims to the contrary, has taken the campaign to a new low.

It’s very clear who this is pitched at.  What do racial division, Australia Day and the divisiveness of culture wars have to do with this campaign?  Absolutely nothing, except as a cynical attempt to dog whistle to a certain group of voters.

Is this the standard we want to set for the delicate, complex and collaborative task of steering Noosa Council over the next four years?

(Authorised by N.Playford. 12 Daybreak Ct., Castaways Beach)


This Post Has One Comment

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    I BLOODY LOVE Noosa – all of it from the beautiful back blocks to the beach, from the hills and gullies to the sand dunes. I love the community spirit; community love for the environment; care of the environment; integrity of previous councils; hand brake on over development; slow food producers; fabulous creative, retail and hospitality experiences; wonderful health and wellbeing opportunities – and the list goes on.

    What I DON’T love are the recent political and egoistical shenanigans of some of those who were entrusted to look after what we love. Why is residential amenity compromised by STAs and over tourism? Why is the health of our river threatened? Where is community integrity in dirty politics and the bending of truth to suit narratives?

    To the candidates wanting to progress their political careers or stroke their egos – beggar off. You have no role in looking after our community.

    To those candidates who will bring to the campaign local government and community development experience, a keen eye for detail and bull dust and a big, honest heart – go for broke.

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