(L to R)Whitsunday Regional Council Division 6 councillor Mike Brunker, Division 5 councillor Gary Simpson, Division 2 councillor Al Grundy, Mayor Andrew Willcox, deputy mayor and Division 3 councillor John Collins, Division 1 councillor Jan Clifford and Division 4 councillor Michelle Wright. Picture: Jordan Gilliland
(L to R)Whitsunday Regional Council Division 6 councillor Mike Brunker, Division 5 councillor Gary Simpson, Division 2 councillor Al Grundy, Mayor Andrew Willcox, deputy mayor and Division 3 councillor John Collins, Division 1 councillor Jan Clifford and Division 4 councillor Michelle Wright. Picture: Jordan Gilliland

Minister dodges call for Whitsunday council sacking

LOCAL Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe has resisted calls by Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan to sack several Whitsunday councillors, including the mayor.

Whitsunday Mayor Andrew Willcox also slammed Mr Costigan's comments, accusing him of playing "political games" during the coronavirus crisis.

During Queensland Parliament last week, the Whitsunday MP called for the councillors' resignations over comments they made about him during a council meeting in February last year.

At the time, Whitsunday Regional Council had voted unanimously to write to the Queensland Education Minister to clarify if Mr Costigan would be allowed to enter schools in the region after he was expelled by the Liberal National Party amid allegations of sexual harassment. "This was against, I understand, the advice of the acting chief executive officer of the council," Mr Costigan told parliament.

Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan. Picture: Tony Martin
Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan. Picture: Tony Martin

"In the people's chamber, I call on the Mayor of Whitsunday Regional Council, Andrew Willcox, and councillors Mike Brunker, John Collins and Jan Clifford to also apologise to me and my family and resign. If they do not then the Minister for Local Government should step in and sack them."

When asked by the Daily Mercury what action, if any, he would take against the councillors, Mr Hinchliffe responded saying council decisions were a matter for councils.

"However, should the Member for Whitsunday wish to make a complaint about a councillor, he can do so through the Office of the Independent Assessor, which was set up in 2018 as part of the Palaszczuk Government's commitment to local government reform," he said.

Cr Willcox said he would not waste time "playing political games".

"My total focus is leading my Whitsundays community through the Covid-19 crisis and charting our region's economic recovery," he said.

"My small businesses and residents are doing it tough so their welfare is my top priority."

It is not the first time the Whitsunday MP has demanded the councillors' resignations and apologies, making a similar call earlier this month.

At the time, Cr Brunker said he had "nothing to apologise for", while Cr Clifford said she had apologised to the Whitsunday MP on several occasions.

Cr Willcox declined to comment and Cr Collins was contacted but did not respond by the time of publication.

Mr Costigan launched a $350,000 defamation lawsuit against Cr Brunker claiming comments he allegedly made during the February 2019 council meeting caused hurt, embarrassment and distress.