Political correctness invades water boards

A POLITICALLY correct push by the State Government to enforce female quotas on local water boards has been rejected as “undemocratic” by Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto.

The Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy’s (DNRME’s) proposed procedures for Category 2 water authorities when nominating and/or electing directors and conducting special ballots have sparked a backlash from local bodies across Queensland, including the Lower Herbert Water Management Authority.

Among the key changes proposed are the stripping of a ratepayer’s right to choose six of the eight directors comprising the Authority’s board, which will be replaced by a nomination committee who would nominate suitable candidates for ministerial appointment to the board.

DNRME will also mandate a State Government target of 50 per cent female representation for all new board appointees to government bodies and 50 per cent female representation on all government bodies by 2020.

“These proposed changes are outrageous and represent a fundamental erosion of democracy in an effort to appease the politically correct brigade,” Mr Dametto said.

“There has never been an impediment to women serving on the Authority’s board and I believe this should be a merit-based process in which those board members elected by ratepayers have the necessary skills and experience required to lead the Authority.

“Operations of the Authority intrinsically rely on local knowledge and relationships built up over several years to be successful. It is essential that all board members possess these qualities regardless of their gender.”

The Authority is jointly funded by its landholder ratepayers within the Authority’s boundaries, Hinchinbrook Shire Council and Wilmar Sugar, yet does not receive any State Government funding.

Currently the Authority has eight directors – one is a representative appointed by Hinchinbrook Shire Council, one is a representative appointed by Wilmar and the remaining six are elected through a nomination and voting process by the Authority’s ratepayers.

“I also share the Authority’s concerns about the potential cost implications as a result of DNRME’s proposed changes. At present, the Authority’s board of directors are paid a meeting fee which they accept as sufficient compensation. This assists in containing rate rises by the Authority,” Mr Dametto said.

“It is unclear what level of compensation directors appointed under DNRME’s proposed nomination committee would receive and who would bear the extra costs to set up and run a nomination committee.

“These concerns must be addressed directly by DNRME with the Authority, who fear the burden of additional meeting fees, advertising and secretarial work will be left with their ratepayers.”

Mr Dametto said he had made a submission regarding the proposed governance changes directly to DNRME and also written to Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham.

“I fully support the Authority in their opposition to these proposed changes and join with them in standing up for democracy when it comes to electing board members who should be judged on their merit – not their gender,” Mr Dametto said.

Nick Dametto MP