Uproar over suspended LNP councillor

Chaotic scenes in Brisbane City Council chambers today followed the Lord Mayor breaking his long silence on suspended Liberal National Party Councillor Nicole Johnston.

Nicole Johnston, Councillor for Tennyson since 2008, was last week suspended from the LNP until the end of the year on accusations including disloyalty and bringing the party into disrepute, an accusation which stems from a complaint from Council CEO Jude Munro that Cr Johnston did not pay due respect and courtesy to council officers.

But the ALP Opposition alleges that the rift between Cr Johnston and the LNP began when she crossed the floor to vote against her colleagues on the proposed bus depot at Sherwood.

Lord Mayor Campbell Newman said the LNP had no problem with councillors taking a conscience vote, and Cr Johnston’s suspension was unrelated to that issue.

The Lord Mayor also accused opposition leader Shayne Sutton of using Cr Johnston’s situation to play political games, saying he didn’t believe Cr Sutton was concerned for Cr Johnston’s welfare, an accusation which caused Cr Johnston to interject and demand that the Lord Mayor retract his comments.

The Lord Mayor refused, and referred to a phone conversation with Cr Sutton, in which Cr Sutton had said she believed Cr Johnston was unwell.

The chamber devolved into chaos, with councillors from both sides interjecting to attack their opponents while chairman Margaret de Witt tried in vain to maintain order.

Cr Johnston was visibly upset, accusing her colleagues in the LNP of bullying and interjecting “have you no respect,” while the Lord Mayor had the floor.

Finally Shayne Sutton moved a vote of dissent in a ruling by Cr de Witt, which failed along party lines with the exception of Cr Johnston, who abstained.

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