Local Government Elections

Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (15:37): Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is great to be back. The four-year election cycle of local government is fast approaching, with voting slips hitting mailboxes this week. Unlike state and federal elections, it is not compulsory to vote for local government; however, we are privileged to live in a democratic society, and this is democracy working at its best.

Some council elections may go by quietly, with not much change seen, and this may be due to the fact that the council's ratepayers are happy with the council and subsequently candidates are elected unopposed. On the contrary, we may see a tough election due to the unrest and dissatisfaction of ratepayers, as is being witnessed in the Coorong District Council, my home council. For some time now, Coorong ratepayers have been expressing their discontent in relation to the operation of their local council. Issues vary from development applications, road maintenance—or the complete lack thereof—and council charges and functionality, just to name a few.

It is one thing to have some discontent in your ratepayer base; however, it is another when almost 600 people attend ratepayer meetings expressing concern. Furthermore, in addition to these ratepayer meetings, I have received many phone calls and emails presenting serious concerns in relation to the Coorong council's road maintenance program and other issues. You need to admit that there is a problem when a council is experiencing such high rates of discontent—no pun intended—from their ratepayers, including me as one of them, with my home being at Coomandook.

I have the view that if you believe there needs to be change you, too, need to be willing to stand up and make change. After all, this is how I became the member for Hammond. Often, we do not envisage ourselves as a councillor or a politician, but sometimes people who do not have political aspirations are so passionate about change that they turn out to be great representatives.

In Coorong council, we are seeing a group of ratepayers who did not intend being councillors but who want change and are willing to stand in order to achieve this. The team for change is a group of seven people collectively running for election for Coorong council. They are Paul Simmons, Jeff Arthur, Brenton Qualmann, Glynis Taylor, Fiona Paech, Lisa Rowntree and Tracy Hill, who has been elected unopposed. The team for change is made up of individuals from various backgrounds, including business and farming.

So far, through this election, I am astounded by the lack of camaraderie and professionalism being exhibited by retiring councillors and some of those renominating. Notwithstanding some negative media commentary by current sitting members, I would like to reflect upon statements made at the final council meeting recently. A retiring councillor used his concluding statement to call the team for change 'bastards' and claimed that these candidates have no respect for themselves.

It is disappointing that a councillor was allowed to speak of ratepayers in this way, and I think it is reflective of the council's disregard for the valid concerns being raised by ratepayers who in some instances have had holes put in their petrol tanks due to the roads or have genuine and serious concerns for safety as a result of the road conditions.

A council is elected through the will of their ratepayers; therefore, it is pertinent that ratepayers be treated with respect and that concerns are considered. Council's disregard for serious ratepayer concerns was further highlighted when they released the roads tender contract during the caretaker period. Since this information came to fruition, ratepayers have expressed their opposition to securing a roads tender, as it should be an election issue.

It is time for change in Coorong council, and ratepayers have the power to make this change in coming weeks. With the short turnaround period for postal votes, I urge people to use their democratic right and to make their vote truly count.