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Council watchdog faces parliamentary probe after pursuit of outback mayor

Politics

The Palaszcuk Government has bowed to pressure to do something about the actions of one of its agencies after a furore over its investigation of an outback mayor who publicly criticised the vaccine rollout in his region.

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Deputy Premier Steven Miles will refer a number of complaints against the state’s local government watchdog to a parliamentary committee for investigation.

The Office of the Independent Assessor has been under fire from politicians on both sides and the Local Government Association of Queensland in recent days over its controversial probe into Barcaldine Mayor Sean Dillon.

The OIA is investigating Mr Dillon for potential misconduct after he questioned whether his local health service would be able to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine and not “stuff it up” at a council meeting in February.

Other mayors and councillors, who have been found guilty of misconduct after being referred to the Council Misconduct Tribunal by the OIA, have also raised concerns about the watchdog.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says Mr Miles is finalising the terms of reference for a parliamentary inquiry into the complaints against the watchdog.

“The deputy premier and I feel that it is time to refer those complaints to a parliamentary committee to conduct an inquiry,” she told reporters on Friday.

Miles will be finalising those terms of reference and will be saying more about that matter in the coming days.

“They will look at the number of complaints, and the types and range of complaints that have been made.”

Mayor Dillon said he had “no confidence” in the Central West Hospital and Health Service rolling out the jab and he hoped they didn’t “stuff it up”, during a council meeting on February 17.

The OIA is investigating whether the comments could be ” detrimental to public confidence” in the local vaccine drive.

Ms Palaszczuk on Thursday said the probe was “ridiculous” and Dillon had done a great job promoting the rollout in Barcaldine.

“It’s a bit of a storm in a teacup, I don’t think what he said was unusual,” she said.

“I think it’s a bit ridiculous, but that’s a matter for the Independent Assessor.”

LGAQ President and Sunshine Coast Council Mayor Mark Jamieson said the Association and its member councils were growing increasingly concerned with the types of investigations being launched and the time being taken to resolve complaints.

“The misconduct investigation launched into Barcaldine Regional Council Mayor Sean Dillon is a clear example of where the system is going wrong,” Mayor Jamieson said.

“A mayor should not be facing sanction for speaking out in support of his community.

“We simply cannot have a situation where elected members are scared to represent their communities in the frank and fearless way Queenslanders not only expect but deserve.”

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