Elected representatives have a mandate to fight for the people they represent. This is a basic principle of democracy.
That’s why it’s distressing that Barcaldine Mayor Sean Dillon is facing charges of misconduct for scrutinising Queensland Labor’s plan to vaccinate his community.
The plan sought to vaccinate 2,900 people spread over 53,677sq km in three days in Barcaldine and one day in each smaller town.
Cr Dillon pointed out that this plan would not be sufficiently accessible to the most vulnerable people in his community and was potentially unworkable.
For this he has been subjected to a seven-month investigation from the Office of the Independent Assessor, on the grounds that his comments expressing reasonable concern were “detrimental to public confidence in a health service provider and lead agency in the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccination program”.
This is a massive bureaucratic overreach. It amounts to an attempt to censoring local councillors from speaking up for those they represent. To add insult to injury, when Mayor Dillon exercised his right to challenge the legality of the gag, the charge was upgraded from “inappropriate conduct” to “misconduct” – timing that ought to ring alarm bells, particularly given the OIA have not explained why they are seemingly penalising Mayor Dillon for exercising his legal rights.
There are few express rights in Australia’s Constitution, but there is a long line of cases that establish an implied right of political communication, which is necessary for our democratic system of government to function.
But it seems Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Labor are prepared to trash basic democratic freedoms if it muzzles criticism. No doubt they have become emboldened by the effectiveness of using the politics of fear to implement border closures and lockdowns.
This attack on democracy shows the true purpose of Palaszczuk’s local government reforms: to stop councillors from daring to question the state government – to stop them from properly representing you.
It’s a betrayal of every Queenslander’s fundamental freedoms, and it shows the Premier’s contempt for the democratic freedoms and liberties on which our society depends. Queenslanders deserve better.