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Tweed mayor vows ‘not to be bullied’

NSW deputy premier Troy Grant arrives for the media event on the NSW-Queensland border recently accompanied by Tweed MP Geoff Provest, left.

NSW deputy premier Troy Grant arrives for the media event on the NSW-Queensland border recently accompanied by Tweed MP Geoff Provest, left. The announcement sparked a war of words between the mayor and MP.

Luis Feliu

A heated row erupted among Tweed shire councillors last night over a bizarre move by Cr Barry Longland to try to force mayor Gary Bagnall to sign a letter apologising to the state deputy premier for spoiling a recent announcement for funding of a tourism sign by comments the mayor made on coal-seam gas (CSG) and Aboriginal heritage.

Cr Longland, who was mayor for three years before Cr Bagnall challenged and won the top job last September, succeeded in his notice of motion for Cr Bagnall to send the letter he drafted ‘without delay’ to deputy PM Troy Grant and the National Party MPs for Lismore, Thomas George, and Tweed, Geoff Provest.

Cr Longland said his letter should be given ‘high priority’ due to the ‘damage’ done to relations between Tweed Shire Council and the state government. He had the support in the 4-3 vote for his move from the three National Party-aligned Crs Warren Polglase, Phil Youngblutt and Carolyn Byrne.

But an angry Cr Bagnall told councillors he won’t be ‘bullied’ into signing the letter, or by anyone to ‘put words in my mouth’ in press releases or official letters, offering instead his own ‘thank you’ letter to be sent to both Mr Grant and deputy prime minister Warren Truss for recent funding announcements for the Tweed.

‘I won’t be controlled in what I say, I’ll write all my own statements in my term of office, so if it’s my name on the bottom, I’ve written it myself, anything else is deceptive,’ he said to applause from some the public gallery at the meeting held at the Pottsville Community Centre.

‘I’m bucking against that trend of the past and putting an end to the practice where the mayors had everything written for them and controlled,’ Cr  Bagnall said.

Cr Bagnall also read out a letter he wrote to Mr Provest asking him to apologise to Mr Grant for his $10,000 tourism-sign announcement not getting the publicity it ‘deserved’ and explaining the background to his CSG comments in a draft council press release last month which he rejected and which led him to accuse the two National Party politicians of trying to gag him over his stand against CSG mining.

Cr Longland responded in a scathing attack on Cr Bagnall, accusing him of ‘showering’ him and council officers with ‘derision’.

He said his ‘unusual’ notice of motion was sparked by ‘highly inflammable political quotes’ made to media by the mayor.

Cr Longland said that in his three years as mayor ‘nothing went out’ of his office which he didn’t approve and press releases were often written by council’s media unit staff because ‘it’s why we have them’.

He said his motion, seconded by Cr Byrne, was ‘not aimed at having a dig at the new mayor’ but that the mayor needed to ‘learn about diplomacy’.

‘It’s most disingenuous of Cr Bagnall to portray himself as the white knight who won’t be controlled,’ Cr Longland said.

Cr Polglase said he had been mayor for five terms, spending 23 years as a Tweed councillor, and it was usual practice for council staff to open the mayor’s mail for registration and for press releases to be readjusted by staff.

He said Cr Bagnall’s comments about council press releases were ‘very derogatory’ of the media unit staff and he was tempted to move a vote of no confidence in the mayor because of that ‘attack’.

He said Tweed council was one of the top shires in the state, but ‘before long they’ll be at the bottom of the heap’.

Cr Byrne said she was ‘concerned about the ability of the mayor to work with staff’ and that there was concern in the business community about his leadership ’and the way you go about things’.

Cr Michael Armstrong said he was saddened by row being aired in public, saying it would have been better dealt with by councillors among themselves, but then attacked Cr Longland for ‘endorsing’ the sitting National Party state MP (Mr Provest) in his letter.

Cr Armstrong, a member of the Labor Party,  said he had ’grave concern’ about the letter requiring the mayor to sign, ‘as it could be seen to be the council organisation or the shire’s population  endorsing candidates and I don’t think that’s appropriate’.

‘It’s only about six or seven months away from the state election and this letter endorses the political performance of the current state MP,’ he said.

Cr Armstrong said the letter suggested the MP was doing a good job, but many locals have concerns he is not delivering outcomes for the community, such as the long-awaited Pottsville High School.

‘I’d hate to think the state government would endorse candidates at a local level, and we started to do the same,’ he said.

Cr Bagnall ended the prickly debate by saying ‘what we’re seeing tonight is a return to the Inquisition where people are forced to sign letters they don’t agree with and I won’t be part of that’.

He said he would not sign the letter under any circumstances because it was ‘bullying me to give political leverage to the National Party’.

Cr Longland’s letter reads:

Dear Deputy Premier. I am writing to convey the appreciation of the Council for your welcome support with the provision of State Government funding for entry signage to NSW at Tweed Heads following your announcement on site on 24 October. Council has noted some negative publicity around the launch event that might have detracted from its significance. This related to the Council’s position on the coal seam gas  industry of which I am sure you would be aware. It is regrettable that this issue, which has been separately dealt with in other forums, was allowed to get in the way of what was a great example of the positive engagement we have enjoyed with the NSW Government over recent times. The Council places a high value on our relationship with your Government and we wish to also acknowledge the work of our two local State members for Tweed and Lismore for their support and advocacy. They are the conduit between our levels of Government and play an important role in Council’s capacity to deliver good outcomes for our residents. Council seeks to retain a continuing strong partnership with the State Government and the Council looks forward to welcoming you again when you next visit the Tweed.

Kind regards
Cr Gary Bagnall
Mayor

Late this morning Cr Bagnall told Echonetdaily that his great grandfather Robert Shannon had found himself in similar trouble for ‘bucking the system’ more than 100 years ago in Sydney

He said the Wagga Wagga Advertiser reported in 1894 that a judge had overturned a sentenced handed down on Shannon by a Glebe Point magistrate of two hours in the stocks for working on a Sunday, which was prohibited at the time.

 


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8 responses to “Tweed mayor vows ‘not to be bullied’”

  1. AL says:

    This has come about because Gary Bagnall stood up to the Nationals. The Nationals are ignoring the people of the Tweed as we oppose the Nationals CSG allowing policies. Barry Longlands crudely saw our Mayor’s moral and ethical anti CSG dust up with the Nationals as his first opportunity to try and square up re Bagnall getting the support to take the mayorality. Gary Bagnall comes out of this smelling like roses and Barry Longlands smells like a guy that has fallen into the sewer. It is indefencible that Longlands is voting with the Nationals block of Polglase / Youngblutt / Byrnes because the very people that put Longlands into council are not supporters of the develop at any cost Nationals.

  2. Paul Taylor says:

    The cheek of Barry Longland is breathtaking. He is all bravado now, yet where was his ticker when Rayner was throwing his weight around. That’s right he was nowhere to be seen,to terrified to stand up for the Tweed Community.
    Anyway way what is it with these peculiar scarf wearing pretend maverick pollies, they are a disgrace to the office they hold.
    Paul

  3. j says:

    Gary Bagnall has the right as Mayor to write his own material in his letters as he see fit and not to dominated by what the Nationals has to say. We,the community as a whole are in favour of someone who can speak their own mind especially when it comes CSG which is not welcome here. Keep up the good work Gary Bagnall.

  4. carolyn says:

    Mayor Gary Bagnall again shows why we need community-centred representatives on council rather than just political-party backed representatives. He is taking the courageous line of standing strong in the face of party politics and is challenging the norm that Cr s Longland, Polglase, et al say should be accepted without question. These councillors have a short memory about politics and forget that they are elected by people in their community, not in Sydney. Gary has continued to show that he knows who he is representing and good on him for remaining strong against this smear campaign by the the former Mayor who obviously no longer remembers that his pride should not be put before the needs of the community he represents.

  5. Jayne says:

    The only person showing ‘derision’ here is Cr Barry Longland. He is acting like a jilted lover and his pathetic drafted love letter to the Nationals backs up this view. My advice; get over it and behave like an adult rather than a spiteful child!

  6. Barbara Thomas says:

    Yes, good on you Gary, for having the courage to stand up for your right of speech and for not being hobbled in raising with State politicians an issue of importance to the residents of the Tweed. Michael Armstrong makes good points re the proposed letter and ‘peeing in the pockets’ of local National MPs (in a letter voted for by the pro development National councillors) who have not represented at all the community’s overwhelming opposition to CSG mining, seems ludicrous and very inappropriate to me. Pity more don’t want to play that game.

    Maintain the high moral ground and refreshing-to-see courage Gary, a rare and wonderful attribute. I salute you, as would your great grandfather I suspect.

  7. Rod says:

    I am looking forward to meeting Mayor Bagnall on Monday and congratulating him on the great job he’s doing. And telling Provest who has done nothing in 8 years, why I will be giving the LNP, the LNP, “Last Number Position”, on the ballot paper at the next election.

  8. Menkit says:

    Cr Longland has hijacked council by defecting to the pro-development side. Now whatever he wants to get through all he has to do is get the support of the other National Party councillors in order to ‘punish’ the pro-environment three, whose team he used to be a part of. When is he going to give up his resentment towards Cr Bagnall for taking his job and just simply accept that it was his turn, as they all agreed at the beginning. The other three gave him two years instead of one. Why can’t he be happy with that and be a good sport?

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