Brisbane's new mayor backtracks

April 17, 1991

By Michael Bell

BRISBANE — Three weeks after the March 23 Brisbane City Council elections, Labor's Jim Soorley was declared lord mayor on April 13. Soorley was elected after winning 70% of Green preferences.

Green Alliance candidate Drew Hutton won 30,176 votes or 7.4% and Environment Independent John Jones received 9303 votes or 2.3%. Liberal candidate, Sallyanne Atkinson won 185,297 votes (45.3%) and Soorley 184,574 (45.1%).

Labor also picked up five Liberal wards to control the council 14 to 12. At the last election, Atkinson polled 63% of the vote.

The Labor Party's lacklustre campaign around the mayor's wages (in the course of the campaign she was dubbed Salaryanne), overseas trips and party girl image could hardly explain the swing of 18%. The "Goss gloss" of the state Labor premier, while a contributing factor, was not crucial. Goss figured little in the ALP campaign.

Perhaps the closest any media commentator came to the truth was to say that Atkinson had become too arrogant and failed to listen to her constituency.

A study Atkinson initiated identified the major concerns of Brisbane residents as traffic, transport, urban development, rates and pollution.

Green Alliance coordinator Maurice Sibelle explained, "As early as February 5, Drew Hutton said that Atkinson would lose the election after the decision to site the new super-dump at Rochedale.

"When Atkinson said there were no issues in this campaign, she made a mistake. The Labor Party may not have campaigned around the issues, but if Atkinson had read her own report on the Brisbane Plan she would have realised what the issues were.

"Labor didn't think they could win, so they made a lot of promises they thought they would never have to implement." During the campaign the Labor Party promised to stop the Rochedale dump, introduce recycling, improve transport, introduce bicycle lanes and reduce rates.

"Anything a community group demanded, Labor said yes to", said Sibelle. "The problem they have now is they have to implement it."

Even before Soorley had been sworn in, he began to back down on the promise to stop the Rochedale super-dump. On April 10 he claimed he did not know whether he would be able to prevent it going ahead, saying "I do not want to involve this city in a huge compensation battle".

Sibelle concluded, "In the last few weeks the conservatives have been fuelling a whole lot of stories about Soorley's private life. Soorley's sexual preference, as if it makes any difference, has come under scrutiny. Everything has been splashed across the papers. The -2>people are not interested in his personal life. They want action on the issues he gave a commitment0> to." n

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