‘No no Nicole’ – Mayor refuses Johnston’s questions but honours Hinchliffe

Independent Nicole Johnston says she is “feeling left out” at Brisbane City Council meetings, after being repeatedly denied the chance to question Lord Mayor Campbell Newman at this week’s explosive meeting.

After postponement of the regular question time, councillors resorted to a quaint provision in the rules letting them interrupt the Lord Mayor mid-speech to pose questions.

Cr Newman’s farewell speech detailing the council’s achievements under his leadership was interrupted regularly with requests for the chance to ask a question.

The Lord Mayor refused five times to take questions from Cr Johnston, justifying his stance by saying that Cr Johnston “doesn’t ever come in and make particularly much of a contribution, and I don’t know why she should be allowed to grandstand this afternoon”.

In stormy scenes Cr Johnston was later suspended from the meeting and escorted from the building by police when she refused to leave. (See story)

Apart from Cr Johnston, several Labor Opposition councillors were refused by the Lord Mayor. But he did accept some Opposition questions, including one from Labor veteran David Hinchliffe. Cr Hinchliffe was deputy mayor during the unusual power-sharing city government of 2004 to 2008, when the Liberal Party held the mayoralty but Labor had the majority of councillors.

Cr Hinchliffe asked: “Given our long association will the Lord Mayor take a question from the shy and retiring councillor?”

Cr Newman responded: “From the councillor who I absolutely respect on the other side – and probably the only one – yes indeed.”

“The feeling’s mutual,” Cr Hinchliffe replied.

Cr Hinchliffe asked the Lord Mayor if he could name the shadow environment minister, a reference to Cr Newman’s seeking to wrest the seat of Ashgrove from Environment Minister Kate Jones at the next state election, plus a test as to how well he knows the state Opposition he leads from outside Parliament, and whether he’ll be reshuffling the team.

Cr Newman said that throughout the coming campaign “I won’t be playing those kinds of games, so no, today I will not.”

(For the record the shadow environment minister is currently Jack Dempsey, the member for Bundaberg.)

Camera and editing: David Stuart

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