'Heckled and jeered': Passions flare at QT mayoral debate

The QT held the first of two pre-election forums at Redbank Plains on Thursday night.
The QT held the first of two pre-election forums at Redbank Plains on Thursday night. Andrew Korner

THE POLLS have Paul Tully and Andrew Antoniolli sitting pretty and well ahead of the pack, but if last night's QT election forum was anything to go by, being favourites has not made them immune to some tough questions regarding their possible leadership.

A crowd of about 50 filed into the front beer garden of the Pig and Whistle pub at Redbank Plains Town Centre to see all 11 candidates speak briefly about their policies before facing a range of questions from the floor, in addition to some questions that the QT asked on behalf of our readers.

The recent resignation and subsequent criminal charges levelled at former mayor Paul Pisasale, combined with the recent explosive ABC Four Corners report on interstate dumping in Ipswich, created the perfect storm for this month's by election.

While councillors Antoniolli and Tully were not short of supporters in the room, they were also not short of opposition.

Both candidates were loudly heckled and jeered as they answered questions regarding the integrity of Ipswich City Council, including whether or not they had prior knowledge of any alleged wrongdoing by the former mayor, or whether they had acted on the information provided in the Four Corners report.

Fighting off jeers from some of those in the audience, Mr Tully was steadfast in his position that the NSW Government was to blame for not properly enforcing its own laws preventing trucks from carting rubbish over long distances.

"I have talked to lawyers to see if there's any way we can impose a levy," Cr Tully said.

"It's a very difficult issue between two states."

Cr Tully insisted it was an issue that could be solved "overnight" if the State Government introduced a waste levy.

Not everyone was convinced.


The QT held the first of two pre-election forums at Redbank Plains on Thursday night.
The QT held the first of two pre-election forums at Redbank Plains on Thursday night. Andrew Korner

Cr Antoniolli, who was also asked about why he had not acted on the issue prior to the airing of the ABC story, said he was simply not aware of the extent of the problem.

He argued that the council needed to take some ownership of the issue and work with the State Government to address the problems, but added that the Swanbank and New Chum area was an ideal site for landfill because of its former use as the centre of Ipswich's coal mining industry.

Greens-endorsed candidate Brett Morrissey wasn't invited to answer the question specifically, but said one of his policies would be to relocate dumping activities further away from residential areas.

Mr Morrissey was scathing of the city's town planning and waste management practices, the latter of which he said were "five years out of date."

Peter Robinson, who has emerged in polling as one of the more popular candidates behind the sitting councillors, said Ipswich had become a "laughing stock" in the wake of recent events.

"Yet the two councillors say they know nothing," Mr Robinson said in his opening address to the audience.

Crs Tully and Antoniolli again faced heat from some segments of the crowd when they stated that they were not aware of so-called "extra-curricular" activities that former mayor Paul Pisasale had been accused of participating in by his former driver.

Despite the occasional tension of the evening, all candidates agreed on two major points.

One of those was that they all felt they could reasonably work alongside other sitting councillors to achieve their aims for the city of Ipswich.

The major point on which they all agreed was that a full investigation should be conducted into Ipswich City Council, in the wake of the charges levelled at Mr Pisasale.

An accountant by trade, Mr Robinson said while reluctant to make any big promises in this campaign, he would promise one thing if elected.

"The first thing I would do is go over all council activities. We need a clearer picture of what's going on," he said in relation to a question over whether he believed a rates freeze was necessary.

"All I want to do is open the books."

Topics:  ipswich election 2017

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