Decisions made behind closed doors can be dangerous
OPINION: AN old editor once said quite regularly to his newsroom: 'We're supposed to report the news, not be the news'.
We were reminded of that this week as our local government leaders - and the hopefuls seeking to replace them - tried to use the Daily Mercury, and an editorial penned a few days ago, for political gain.
The point of the editorial was simple: We asked people to consider whether some of the independents in this Mackay council election had banded together to form an informal team of their own in opposition to the Greg Williamson Alliance - a registered group.
And if voters were making their call based on whether they favoured a team, or a team of independents, things might not be as they expected.
Cue horror from one side of our political spectrum and out-of-context celebration from the other.
The independents claimed we were siding with the Williamson group; and members of his group started selectively quoting from the editorial on their polling placards, suggesting the paper was backing them.
Of course, there is always the chance we weren't clear in what we were trying to get across, rather than the more obvious option: politicians trying to look after their self interest.
So for the sake of clarity.
Knowing who to trust and who will stand up for you and your community is paramount for voters at the ballot box this council election.
There is an argument for streamlining some decisions and allowing time to be spent on the most important issues.
But in a democratic society, it is dangerous if decisions are made behind closed doors.
There needs to be vigorous debate about key decisions.
Take the memorial pool and Wesches swimming hole as recent examples of community issues that sparked a lot of debate.
There are plenty of examples of teams, or tickets as some call them, predetermining votes and decisions at various councils across Queensland. Debate has been stymied.
That is the danger in the Mayor Williamson option. (Though it is up to people like the Daily Mercury to hold members to account if that starts to happen).
In general, we are not convinced anyone running as a team can truly deliver a democratic council, especially if any disagreement is already ironed out before a meeting even begins.
But the actions this week from the council candidates, from both sides, should also give you pause for thought.
Some independents are clearly having conversations with each other about how to run various parts of their campaigns and that is coming through in the similar responses to our queries.
But they won't acknowledge that, and try to shoot the messenger. One even suggested the editor should be sacked over the editorial. (Note from my boss: Not a chance).
Then the alliance, seeing how thin-skinned some independents are, made more of it than was intended.
It hardly fills you with confidence in any of them.
Our great hope for this election is that the best people for the job are elected, regardless of their group or independent status.
Hopefully the candidates are doing a better job of proving their credentials with the voters than they have done with us this week.