Ladies and gentlemen thank you for joining me here today.
I recognise in looking around the room what a contribution so many of you have made to the Gold Coast.
I also know that in joining me here today you are showing your deep concern for the future of the Gold Coast.
Every time I visit one of the world's great cities I am fascinated by how they overcome the many challenges that face them in building liveable cities that provide opportunity, safety and services.
How do their civic leaders provide the vision and capability that rises above the limited, ineffective and inefficient systems and cultures? How do these leaders envision and deliver truly great cities for their citizens?
I ask these questions because the future of the Gold Coast hangs in the balance. In fact we see the weight of neglect, poor leadership and stifling regulation is sinking the Gold Coast.
On your way here today, many of you would have driven along Scarborough Street, Ferry and Bundall Roads and along Surfers Paradise Boulevard. What you would have witnessed was in some ways a boulevard of broken dreams…too many empty shops, empty offices, empty warehouses and empty car parks.
I saw business owners struggling to survive. I saw brave new businesses who would dearly love to market themselves but the overwhelming and often unbudgeted infrastructure charges forced on them, left them capital short and in some cases vulnerable.
I am here today because I share your frustration and I am deeply inspired by your thirst for a clear vision and energy for change.
On that basis I am here today to proudly announce my candidacy for the position of the Mayor of the Gold Coast at the 2012 Local Government election.
The Gold Coast has long been regarded as the epicentre of entrepreneurism and small business. A place where families came to enjoy our enviable lifestyle, our climate, our hinterland, our waterways and our golden beaches.
I have seen first-hand our city grow to become the 6th largest in Australia, and I have seen the establishment of substantial investment in business, property and infrastructure on the Gold Coast.
We live in the best corner of the best country in the world, but we are no longer envied because in recent time this city has slowly decayed.
Instead of being a city where dreams are made, we have become a city where hard working tradespeople have lost hope. A city where families have sent their breadwinners to work in Brisbane and in many cases the mines to keep a roof over their heads.
A city whose youth have lost confidence and direction, a city that has been deserted by investment and by investors who have lost faith in our local government leadership and our decision makers.
It has been said that a good yardstick of the cities health is to count the number of cranes on the city skyline. Whilst Australia weathered the global financial meltdown, the Gold Coast has not. Our Prime Minister and Premier may gloat about an unemployment rate of fewer than 5%, we cannot.
Our figure looks in danger of being double that. During the global financial meltdown our leaders continued to introduce and force policies that deterred investment and exacerbated the financial crisis I say enough is enough.
The circumstances that have driven the decay, that has forced families apart, that has left many of our youth without direction or hope and that has forced an influx of mortgagee sales has been of our own creation.
We have been let down substantially by our leaders. The Council bureaucracy and the regulations that inhibit business must be brought under control. It's time for a fundamental change, its time for a major shift in our values and it's time to get the Gold Coast working again.
There is no more time to wait. I invite you to join with me today in rebuilding the Gold Coast. I want to restore confidence and hopes to the Gold Coast community. Whilst the election is not until 2012, this movement of reinspiring people, bringing them together, identifying blockages and commencing reform starts today. We can leave this room and go back to our families and businesses, with passion, energy and commitment to be part of change and solution and to lay the foundations for an exciting near era.
People have said to me that one person can make a difference, but that's too simple. One man can name the challenges we all share, and, crucially can provide a space where people mobilise and create their future. It is the actions of business and community together well served by government that brings fundamental change. My mayoralty if elected will be leading a more united community creating a future of faith, stability and creativity. Together we make a difference.
That is why I have asked a number of industry experts to chair strategy groups, to make policy recommendations and to critique my own policies. Ensuring that we have a 'whole of city' approach to rebuilding the Gold Coast. A query put to me by many of you here today is whether I will reform the bureaucracy…the answer is an unequivocal yes.
Council employees tell me that they are stifled by too many layers, too many regulations that result in disillusionment. They are frustrated by a lack of consistency from Council and a blurring of roles of senior council bureaucrats and elected officials. As Mayor I will ensure there is much clearer understanding of the roles of the Council and the administration.
The Mayor and Councillors will provide clear strategic and policy leadership, progressing the reforms mandated by the community in the election. Employees will receive clear accountable policy and the resources and delegation to implement policy. I will work with Council officers in a restructure that can provide better services that empower business, community and residents.
I predict that other candidates will try to reduce the number of directorates by 2 or 3 in an attempt to generate support without any clear understanding of what each Directorate or Branch actually does. However this is not a private company and unless they have taken advice from Local Government experts such as former Council CEOs then the result will be disastrous as experience in legislative functions is paramount so as to understand form and function.
I have been discussing options with experts across the State and believe that a restructure down to as few as two Directorates is possible with the appropriate governance. This will not affect jobs at the coal face but has the potential to save millions in excess executive salaries and perks with a simpler and flatter structure that promotes accountability. Poor administration is the result of poor leadership and poor governance by those who claim that leadership.
I will work with staff in providing outstanding customer service instead of the paternalistic arrogance where some councillors and some senior administrators think they know what is best for the people they are charged to serve. We have seen at least one councillor lament that he can't get answers on staff costs and another councillor suggest that expenditure recommendations be left to the CEO 'as knows best'. Both of these Councillors have indicated they would like run for the position of Mayor.
This rubbish must stop and will stop if I am elected mayor. The councillors are the delegates of the people to enact their will in the best interest of the community. It is not the place of the bureaucracy to determine policy nor is it place of the bureaucracy to comment on policy or council direction yet we have seen the emergence of this worrying trend in recent years with no effort from those who wish to claim leadership to bring these excesses under control. Under my mayoralty officers will return to being anonymous and responsive to the people's representatives.
The secondary outcome of this restructure will be to allow the staff who are external service providers to once again do their job with pride and without fear. Council has excellent staff serving the people of this city that are being strangled by red tape and a fear of speaking out against changes designed to serve the organisation and not the people This leads me to the burning issue of waste. The appalling lack of oversight by the two people primarily charged with finance and budget control is epic in its magnitude. The first budget after the election which is only a matter of some 8-9 weeks will be critical to send a message to certain parts of the bureaucracy that the gravy train is over and that every cent of ratepayers funds will be treated with respect.
The budget reporting process will be altered to be transparent and fully accountable so that sub contractors‟ fees cannot be hidden within project budgets. It is not possible for any candidate who has no council experience to take control of a budget of this magnitude within 8 weeks of being elected and provide a result that is both effective and balanced.
As the campaign develops, and as I work with the Gold Coast community and industry leaders I will further detail the opportunities and strategies I have in mind for the upcoming Council term. The key foundations of my campaign are:
Our lifeblood is tourism yet we have rules that inhibit the production of new product and as such it is my intention to remove the need for impact assessable applications on tourism product within our key tourist areas. We cannot afford to have investors choosing to create competition in other destinations because it is simply too hard to deal with the Council. Beyond that, Council must also play its part in providing infrastructure that supports tourism and I intend to announce later in the campaign a major facility for the city to help attract world class events and acts.
A facility that reflects our greatest attributes, that is unique and identifiable with the Gold Coast. Policy advisory group for tourism, which will test my proposals and present further options for the industry and I will announce the chair in coming weeks.
I propose to have an achievable and affordable infrastructure program. Not an idealistic wish list that increases costs but does not reflect delivery. This will include a bridge building strategy and a rapid transit strategy that will complete the dream I started in 1996. Many of you know John Howe who helped build much of this city and he has kindly accepted my invitation to establish a group to provide advice on this issue.
Our city is based around extensive waterways and we have no comprehensive marine infrastructure and tourism strategy. My first priority is to fight for the re-establishment of a Gold Coast water ways authority. At a local level I believe the establishment of a water taxi service between Southport and the tourism facilities of the Spit, should be the first step in our marine strategy.
The critical reason for all of us to choose this city as our home is lifestyle. Lifestyle encompasses all of the attributes we know so well but should include a vibrant arts scene as well as protection of our natural assets and our social wellbeing. However the methodology used in preparing an Arts precinct is traditional and lacks not only imagination but also practical application. The death of the live music scene on the Gold Coast has led to a dearth of opportunities for musicians.
This can be addressed by removing red tape within the planning scheme for the creation of intimate and grass roots venues that can provide a safe low key alternative to the night club scene for our youth.
Mr Paul Broughton, Chairman of the Titans, had kindly accepted my request to chair the Sports Industry Advisory Group. They will be looking at linking our national sporting teams to our tourism strategy and creating a sports precinct in the central area of our city that is of international standard. We will be looking to create a tourism linkage with our national sporting teams leveraging a weekend on the Gold Coast for fans to support their visiting team.
Further though we will be looking to re-establish the Gold Coast as an international training base for athletes as was the case prior and subsequent to the Sydney Olympics.
The establishment of an education strategy, that does not penalise businesses for setting up in the City through reduction in red-tape and planning controls. This is an issue that Council has failed to be reconciled in almost 5 years. I also wish to pursue the creation of another University campus in the north of the City a strategy which I established more than 15 years ago yet the current leadership has neglected. I also intend to announce a community hub network to assist those who do not have access to computers at home assisting in research.
Sustainability is the cornerstone of the future, however it is not simply protecting trees and our fauna, it is about having an economy and a social network that allows us to protect our natural assets. As someone who has spent the last 4 years researching and advising on sustainability practices I believe we can provide an industry which value adds to energy efficient products.
I propose an ambitious program to make Gold Coast a Centre of Excellence for the establishment and research of Renewable Energy Technologies.
The city has no long-term vision
The alternatives of this election is to either trust Mayoral candidates who have no experience managing the city, and we have seen the result of that with current circumstances, or to trust individuals who have contributed within council to policies and decision making that has exacerbated our social and financial decline.
Most of you know I am a long-term strategist and consider the greater good rather than immediate popular practices of some current representatives. I have a great love for this city. We should be the envy of the world.
The power is with us all to create change, to say enough is enough, to stop the waste, to stop the gravy train, to stop the policies that have inhibited our growth. Over the coming months I will be outlining a strategic blueprint for the city based on the advice of my industry groups.
A blueprint and a management plan that will turn the tide, that will reinvigorate small business, that will restore hope to families, that will provide our youth with services for the present and a reason to believe in the future and that will once again make the Gold Coast and its residents the envy of Australia Before I close I wish to squarely address a question that remains for some in this city, and perhaps some of you as well.
You will recall after the 2004 election, allegations were made regarding probity, mainly by some who are currently in elected positions in the city. Putting aside the fact that my integrity was tested and beyond doubt proven intact, we have seen that those who were the accusers and used those allegations as a lever to gain control have in fact been largely responsible for the policies that have crippled our City.
In closing, this will be a tough campaign and a long one. But if we all work together, and share our passion and our commitment, we can turn the lights back on. We can give back 'the power to the people'.
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