Let’s not waste a good scandal

COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA

 

So, it’s business as usual, as if the Councillor Geoff Booth scandal never happened?

 

At 4.57pm yesterday the Town Council was getting ready to discuss, among other issues, whether Cr Booth’s proposed profiting from prostitution had put the council into disrepute.

 

At 4.58pm Cr Booth emailed his resignation and that was it. Resignation effective immediately. No further action. The carpet was lifted and the dirt, swept under it.

 

This online newspaper broke the story. Our reporting was deliberately in a neutral tone: readers could interpret the facts in ways ranging from “we have a pimp in our local government” to “a welcome new local business at a time when the town needs commercial initiative”.

 

Comments from our readers covered that spectrum with passion, conviction and anger. (We declined publication of some extreme views.)

 

Clearly, there was a powerful call for leadership: as council lawyer Chris Turner put is so well, the elected members are best placed to interpret Alice Springs’ mores, to define what we consider right and wrong.

 

So, elected members, please go and do it, rather than pretending that everything is honkey dory.

 

Does the resignation wipe clean the disrepute the town may have been placed into? Can it all happen again? What is the council’s stance on these issues of major public concern?

 

And while we’re at it, the questions of Cr Booth’s residential circumstances and meeting attendances have been raised for some time. Why have conclusive answers not been obtained?

 

Let’s not waste a good scandal. Let’s put some rules into place and tell the public what they are, so it can make informed choices at the next elections – starting with the by-election for Booth’s now vacant position.

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10 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Melanie Ross
    Posted October 5, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    Cr Booth has fallen on his sword but what about his fellow entrepreneur, the CEO of Imparja Alistair Feehan.
    How does his investment in the sex industry impact on the corporate image of an Indigenous owned business? Imparja was formed, and still receives some public funding, as the voice of Indigenous Australia. It talked about a social charter and social responsibility when it was formed – where is this now?
    Given that one of the main impetus for the Intervention was sexual exploitation and violence against women and children, does their CEO’s involvement in the sex industry put one of the largest players in the Indigenous media sector in a quandary?
    While I have no personal moral view on prostitution, a man making money from sex workers does raise a lot of issues, especially for the Imparja board.
    Does Imparja’s board agree with their CEO’s outside investments?
    What impact is it having on Imparja’s corporate image?
    In the past the Imparja CEO has played a major role in promoting a negative view of Alice Springs and Indigenous people through his support of the politically motivated Action for Alice campaign. In that instance the then-board Chair took the fall. Who will take the fall this time?

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  2. Posted October 2, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    Ian Sharp, I do not wish to take the comments off-topic however I will point out something for you. He stood, asked to be appointed, and to live life in the public forum.
    I am commenting from a position of safety where I do not feel a threat from talking (online). You know I am here and have an opinion, you are far too concerned about WHO, when you should be a lot more concerned about WHAT and WHY.
    Mr Rennie, I really am not asking for such changes (although the controversy attached to them would make for exciting news).
    I am however asking that Mr Booth be considered in accordance with his actions and that ASTC look into how they can recover costs for the community. Perhaps we can ask for the “allowance” he has received to be returned.
    Even if not enforceable in law, there is no harm in the ASTC asking for their money back! Indeed, a pizza shop might give you a free pizza or your money back if they deliver the wrong one and you asked them.
    I would encourage ASTC to seek justification, and if possible enforce redress.
    We need a certain quality of person in these positions. In no way do I wish to discourage people from putting their hand up, but I do wish to discourage people with the wrong motivation behind them.
    I would like very much to hear from Mr Booth on the matter rather than leaving it to pure speculation. Show us Mr Booth, you have respect for the position you once held.
    Address the Alice Springs News Online and the issues we readers have raised. Mr Booth, you owe us an apology, please help us understand, we do want to!

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  3. ian sharp
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    Frank, nothing sinister I assure you. I have formed the view over many years that people tend to be more thoughtful and reasonable if writing under their own name. Not always true of course, but generally raises the tone and quality of the discussion I believe. I wouldn’t write any opinion that I wasn’t prepared to put my name to (crikey! double negative there!), or make a comment about a person that I wouldn’t be prepared to make to their face. I think that is just the right thing to do. Otherwise we are just scribbling anonymously on dunny doors … To quote you: ‘He has run away like a scared little child sooner than face up to the consequences of his actions’ … a bit weak to accuse Booth of that without giving your own name, in my opinion.

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  4. Ian Rennie
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 10:34 am

    Frank, you would be aware that the Westminster system is based largely on precedent and such a move would not only be unfair on him but also on every elected representative of the people anywhere in Australia who for whatever reason finds it necessary to stand down from that office.
    Are you asking for a change to our Constitution? Just think, even if Australia were a republic, it is highly unlikely such an act would be allowed.

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  5. Posted October 2, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Mr Sharp, I am sitting here wondering WHY you would need or want to know my full identity? I would rather be free to state my own honest views and opinion thank you all the same.
    Some people are so closed minded that they are happy to be put into a box where other community members start to harbour a relationship or friendship simply because they appear to share a single viewpoint or opinion.
    For all you know I could indeed be a member of the council staff, completely fed up with the way things are running, and have not been able to implement change from within my work environment and while seeking alternative employment I may be evaluating my options.
    Regardless, I am still entitled to my opinion and I choose to share it with the Alice Springs News Online.
    Whatever your rational reason, the idea that you must be able to seek out the actual individual and pin-point them to their physical location suggests a more sinister motive behind your cry for my identification.

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  6. Erwin Chlanda
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 9:22 am

    @ Ian Sharp, posted October 1, 2013:

    Hi Ian, we greatly appreciate your many fully signed comments, as always.
    May I please refer you again to our comments policy at http://www.alicespringsnews.com.au/comments-policy/
    We stress the weight and credibility of signed Letters to the Editor as compared with comments contributed under a pseudonym.
    However, we do not wish to hand a victory to the – very considerable – forces in our society, able and resolved to victimise and silence people who are speaking out, exercise their freedom of speech and contribute to debate.
    We moderate the comments and do not publish those we find vexatious or excessively and unfairly offensive.

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  7. Ruth
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 8:11 am

    Well said Frank but I doubt if he would have got away with it in high school. If there are any other uncaring, self-serving members on council maybe they should resign as well.

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  8. Hal Duell
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 8:07 am

    Following the resignation of Councillor Geoff Booth from the Alice Spring Town Council, by law we must now have a by-election to fill the casual vacancy.
    This process will drain $30,000 or more from Council’s budget, money the town could well put to better use.
    Since the NT Government is already reviewing the shire system, I wonder if they could extend that review to include the method used to fill any casual vacancy that occurs during the normal four-year life of our elected Councils.
    What if in the future the Electoral Commission were to return to the results of the previous election and offer the vacant position to the person who was next in line? If need be they could continue down the list until a candidate was found willing to serve out the term. Only if no one wanted the job would we have a by-election.

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  9. Ian Sharp
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 7:41 am

    A reasonable point of view ‘Frank’ but I wish you had the courage to put your full name to it.
    Bit rich to accuse Booth of cowardice while remaining anonymous.
    Erwin, I think it is time for you to rethink your policy on this issue, new rules for the Alice News as well?

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  10. Posted October 1, 2013 at 11:46 pm

    When a council member quits because they are essentially not interested any more and have something else / different / new / shiny to play with – is there any kind of precedent to make the member contribute towards the costs of the by-election?
    It really does feel like he wants the town to pay the ultimate price in every way. What kind of person gets into a position like this without the ability to even follow through on the short term clearly set out before him at the beginning of his stance for election? If this was high-school these actions might be acceptable, but a grown man deciding that he wants to do something else now?
    He clearly stated he wants to go do something involving more money (“expanding business interests”). Honestly Alice Springs Town Council needs to stand up for us and demand he pay for this election.
    We all know the real reason for his resignation was probably because he didn’t want to get fired and be told off in the ASTC meeting. He has run away like a scared little child sooner than face up to the consequences of his actions. And ASTC has let him!

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