COUNCIL Q&A: Candidates respond to pandemic
THE future of the Southern Downs will be decided at the local government elections on March 28.
Prospective councillors don't require any formal qualifications but the Queensland Electoral Commission suggests an active interest in community issues, good communication and negotiation skills, and business or financial management skills.
In the lead-up to the mandatory elections The Daily News aims to provide daily insight into candidates' experiences, ideas, visions and priorities.
Candidates will receive a question each weekday, for which they will have 24 hours to respond, within a word limit, before the paper goes to print.
Should these councillors receive the public vote, they will have no shortage of issues with which to contend.
Fires, drought and potential flooding posed complex problems for the region over the past 12 months, and with a global pandemic looming, there are greater challenges to come.
This question asked,
"If elected, how would you support the Southern Downs through a pandemic?"
"I will encourage all residents in our community to heed the advice from the Department of Health, to take the necessary action to manage their own health and to protect others in our community.
This is a national emergency. The Queensland Department of Health has prime responsibility for what action needs to be taken by Queensland residents and our Local Disaster Management Group, under direction from the State Disaster co-ordination Centre, will provide direction through all local agencies on what measures need to be taken to support everyone in our community."
"Well this a tough one as it will depend on what it is and what the Government policy will be at the time, but the shutting down of business will have a long term effect as some of these business will never open again due to cost and red tape. All council could do is try and soften the blow as much as possible and be able to help business get back up and running with no fees or charges. Unemployment will be an issue and council would have to get government funding to start shovel ready infrastructure projects up and running to employ locals until local business pick up again."
"The State and Federal Government will mandate any necessary measures such as limiting or temporarily suspending big events. As Mayor we can help our community prepare to take precautions that will limit the impact of such an event. It is very important we take steps to protect our vulnerable and elderly, by providing support and education where needed."
"This is a world pandemic issue, not a council election issue. At times like this we need to follow the advice of experts and authorities with real insight. Our medical and scientific experts have the tools to guide us and we should all follow the recommendations they set. Any council, regardless of its elected leadership should be expected to support and act as directed in the national interest. As a community we are stronger than as individuals. Leadership built on trust, transparency and open engagement is what we need."
BARTLEY, Ross Trevor
"This is a major health issue, which is everybody's responsibility to act on the advice from the Federal and State Governments. I'm sure that if there was a request from either of these levels of Government for assistance from Local Government (Councils), Council would assist to the best of their ability.
Our responsibility is to ensure that our most vulnerable people in the community are cared for, and comply with recommendations of the Department of Health to be mindful to keep up with all the recommendations and new information that arises daily."
"Freeze rates. Follow the expert medical advice and all government advice. Inform the community of any support for business and individuals. I have been here before, survive cholera epidemic, military curfew, power cuts of 5 hrs a day, empty supermarket, etc. We will survive this, we are going to be more successful and resilient from this because we are together. Just everyone does their part. I would be available every day at 6.00pm for my daily Facebook live until isolation finishes."
"As we can already see, the requirements for a pandemic rapidly changes daily and sometimes multiple times a day. It's vital to reduce anxiety and keep residents fully informed with up to date, accurate information from relevant organisations. This information needs to be available on the website, relevant social media pages and to media in a timely manner.
In a lot of ways Council would operate like it should in other times of crisis, implement government directives and work in with local churches and charities to provide support for vulnerable people. The churches and charities often know how to reach people that otherwise might be missed."
"I believe I would have a very hands on approach, volunteering to deliver groceries to those in self isolation and checking on our elderly residents as well. I will work with my fellow councillors to relay daily communications to keep all of our community members informed. Mental health is another large issue at these times; I would make sure that I will always be available to listen to anyone wanting to off-load or voice their concerns."
"All too often during disasters, reliable information is the first casualty. Nearly everyone has mobile phones so regular information updates over SMS, social media or the like is imperative. Basic, solid, reliable and informative information is the key. The engagement of a disaster committee within Council encompassing all the necessary internal and external groups detailing contingencies and plans to support our communities during a disaster is responsible governance. Opening Council facilities and services to our community is a further step. I would ensure all these processes take place to support my communities during a pandemic and that is good representation."
"By continuing to care and give support to all those people in our community that require it. To me, that's just being a good neighbour."
"Communicating with residents to relay the latest information will be essential. Guided by Government Medical advice, Council will work with Emergency Services, charity groups, business, locals and volunteers in a program co-ordinated by experts, and executed under the guidance of Federal, State and Local Government Laws and Acts that provide for such instances."
"There needs to be an all of community approach. I'm the current deputy chair of the Local Disaster Management Group and part of the response is to co-ordinate with all State Agencies and Community Groups to minimise the risk to the most vulnerable in our community. Even sporting organisations and businesses are closing down for the time being. It's not just a normal flu. Recovery from the slow down being created will take time and will have to be co-ordinated across the community. Similar to but on a much larger scale than drought and bushfires combined because many more people and businesses will be affected."
"Council needs to support and rebroadcast (as they are doing) State and Federal initiatives and directives. I am particularly concerned about our most vulnerable citizens especially the elderly who may have no immediate family or personal support and so I would advocate for a local forum to urgently discuss with local charities, hospitals, doctors and family support organisations to determine how best to do that.
The Queensland Government has pledged $500M in interest free loans to help prevent local businesses from collapsing. Council could help in cutting the red tape by providing direct advice and application assistance to our businesses."
"Ensure our region follows the National Emergency Response Plan & is kept up to date with consistent accurate information about the status of the disease, enabling them to participate in managing the outbreak by taking steps to reduce the risk to themselves and their families. Follow government health guidelines to minimise transmission by ensuring social distancing is upheld. Support & help co-ordinate charitable assistance within the local community if the need arises."
HARROLD, Amanda Joy
"In response to a pandemic, Council need to act as a community leader. Council can support the community by keeping vital services running even if they have to be delivered in a different way, introduce additional services including the rigorous cleaning of public facilities, ensure everyone has access to food, and partner with local community groups and health organisations to provide support. Council should also encourage and mobilise the huge community spirit which exists in our region!"
"In my efforts to serve and support the community through a pandemic would be to heed the advice of State and Federal medical authorities.
Local authority's role is to abide by directions and procedures from a higher level in the case of a situation declared as pandemic on a national basis."
JENSEN, Michael Damian
"All levels of government would need to work cohesively together to get through any major event, like a pandemic. I am sure the SDRC like any other Council in Australia would have emergency strategies and procedures in the case of a catastrophic event. Engaging and consulting with all experts and relevant government agencies on how best to handle a pandemic in our region would be essential. The safety of our community would need to be first and foremost when making any major decisions for the community during such a crisis after gathering and assessing all relevant information and expert opinion."
JOHNSON, Gregory Glenn
"I am not sure how anyone could answer that question with any sense of confidence. There are too many unknowns going forward. It's a dynamic and fluid situation. The boundaries keep changing day by day. All levels of Government have to review their response to this pandemic daily. So this is not something you could realistically present a policy for during a campaign. Having said that though I would urge people to follow the advice of health authorities. Council should respond by adhering to advice issued by State and Federal Governments and health authorities such as Queensland Health."
"With the current events unfolding with COVID-19, the disruption to the Southern Downs social and economic functioning cannot be underestimated. Maintenance of essential services requires a whole-of-government response to provide information across all levels of government.
During my employment with Australian Red Cross, I was tasked with the set up and management of evacuation centres through to recovery activities in the Southern and Western Downs and have completed accredited training in Qld Emergency Services Management. I am experienced and well placed to provide a variety of supports to our community including community intervention to reduce social mixing and infection control measures."
"The wellbeing of the region's residents, young and old, as well as assisting limit the impact on businesses and employment is paramount in regard to services provided by Council. Council has already acted in regard to public facilities provided and will continue to review daily. Most importantly is what each of us do as individuals. Have a household plan and ensure each family member is fully aware. Care for family members who might be a greater risk for serious complications. Look out for neighbours who might not have family close at hand. Lastly, create an emergency contact list."
"In all emergency situations information is the key. The council should publish the most up to date medical advice on all available media platforms."
"My position would be to act under instructions from the mayor and assist to communicate to the residents the information and recommendations from the Health Authorities, governments, and medical officers. The information would be disseminated through various media to ensure coverage to all. The distancing of people from each other would be encouraged and strongly recommended by continued advice. Assistance could be arranged for the disabled and elderly for their welfare. A call centre could be established for residents to explain and assist with their welfare until the crisis had passed. Timely and regular communication would be paramount to quell fear and panic."
"In our current situation we are taking guidance from our State and Federal governments.
Locally we need to provide as much information and practical advise as possible. As a local council our job is to support the community and implement practical measures which may assist our community. There is no easy solution to such a situation and any response needs to be highly fluid and may require Aid to the Civil Power from military elements."
"Council plays a dual role, as a member of Local Disaster Management Group LDMG (Mayor is Chair) and as an employer. LDMG takes the lead in preparing, responding and recovering from the pandemic. As an employer, Council needs to protect and support staff as well as ensuring that essential services are still delivered to our communities. Council will also need to advocate to State and Federal Government for ongoing subsidies to businesses. "
"The council has an obligation to keep the community informed. Councils' Facebook page is continually updating relevant information for the community.
I would encourage the community to follow guidelines put out by State and Federal authorities as these are updated frequently as well.
The Council will be formulating policies to deal with
the consequences of the social and economic challenges that will be caused by this virus."
"I would see Council acting to reduce the impacts of the pandemic, and raising awareness while promoting preventive measures.
Council would also provide support that would take varied forms throughout the duration of the pandemic while ensuring response activities are consistent across all levels of government.
Council's objective's in supporting the community should encompass the reduction of the impact of a pandemic.
Importantly the prevention of the transmission and implementation of infection control measures, while ensuring that essential Council services continue.
Inform the public and staff of changes to regular services within the municipality."
"The Disaster Management team would be stood up to deal with the crisis. We would work with the State and Federal Health Depts to be guided through the necessary procedures.
Infected people would need to be isolated, people who are unsure if infected would self-isolate.
Events would have to be cancelled and people advised to stay at home. This is already happening.
Elderly persons being given the opportunity to shop by themselves before other shoppers are allowed in, is a good idea.
We are facing an economic disaster, and this is something we have to be prepared for."
"Council has a prime responsibility to its staff, so all work practices and hygiene measures recommended by health authorities should be followed for Council staff. Council also has good communication networks, so can keep residents well informed of the latest control measures and best-practices. Council also has a role to co-ordinate emergency services (as was done well in the fires last September), so may be called up to play some role in co-ordinating community action if asked by State Government."
"The first thing needed is communication with the public. Other councils are making decisions and announcements for the protection of our residents. As of Wednesday morning - nothing - the silence is deafening. Council should already have emergency procedures in place but relaying them to our worried community is paramount. This is a time for calm, level-headed leadership. I would be liaising with our health providers and getting the facts and making sure we are equipped for the worst case scenario. But all this needs to be disclosed to our public."
"As I am not a Medical Practitioner, nor do I have any other medical qualifications, I would be guided by Queensland Health, Darling Downs Health, Federal & State Government, and, our Local Disaster Management Group. I would support the directives from those departments.
As a Councillor, I would become involved in the economic recovery period after the pandemic, and would be seeking support from the Mayor and fellow Councillors, for SDRC, to face the challenges, both socially and economically, and to offer assistance to local businesses, affected by the economic downturn, e.g. rate rebates, reductions in fees & charges etc."