Page 4049 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 17 November 2015

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Community councils

Discussion of matter of public importance

MR ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Dr Bourke): Madam Speaker has received letters from Dr Bourke, Mr Coe, Mr Doszpot, Ms Fitzharris, Mr Hanson, Mrs Jones, Ms Lawder, Ms Porter, Mr Smyth and Mr Wall proposing that matters of public importance be submitted to the Assembly. In accordance with standing order 79, she has determined that the matter proposed by Ms Lawder be submitted to the Assembly, namely:

The importance of community councils in the ACT.

MS LAWDER (Brindabella) (4.27): I am pleased to talk about the important role that community councils play in the ACT. We know that they are an important part of our community. There are a number of community councils obviously throughout the ACT and the one I am most familiar with, of course, is the Tuggeranong Community Council. There is also the Woden Valley Community Council, the Gungahlin Community Council and community councils in Weston Creek, the inner north, the inner south and Belconnen. There are quite a range of community councils.

It was disappointing recently to hear the Chief Minister disparage the role of community councils in the ACT because community councils represent a wide range of Canberrans. They have people of all genders, all ages, all ethnic backgrounds involved, and I know that because I go to a number of community council meetings. During the annual reports hearing on 4 November this year the Chief Minister said:

The idea that a community council is in any way representative, given that most of the attendees are of one particular gender in some councils and, again, way out of connect with the demographic distribution of people living in particular regions, is another example of where communication and consultation need to be much broader.

In essence, the Chief Minister was saying that community councils are not representative or particularly useful in their contribution to debate on planning and other matters in our community.

Community councils have a number of successes under their belt, and I point out that they are run by volunteers. These are people who give up their time and effort in order to improve our communities. There is an old saying that if you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem. These are people who are trying to be part of a solution. It is very disappointing to see their tireless efforts being run down by the Chief Minister.

This is not the first time. Unfortunately, the ACT Labor government has a bit of a history of community council bashing. Back in 2012 in this place then Labor backbencher Mr Hargreaves called the Tuggeranong Community Council an old persons club and referred to its members as a geriatric mob, nothing but a self-help group that he “would not touch with a barge pole”. That was pretty unfortunate, and even more unfortunate is the fact that Mr Barr is continuing that history of

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