Yorke Peninsula Council found this out the hard way last week. Mayor Ray Agnew made a captain’s call to move council’s struggling Australia Day awards to January 25. People flipped out, and the councillors moved for the event to go back to January 26. This all happened in little more than 24 hours.
YPC released a statement on Friday saying our headline about the initial January 25 plan “possibly misrepresented the mayor’s intentions”. Our headline was: Date change for YPC Australia Day event. That is exactly what the article was about, and exactly what the mayor intended to do.
Perhaps that is why the council’s statement, when posted on Facebook, received just a dozen likes – and half of those came from YPC staff, elected members or their families. Meanwhile our announcement about the planned move to January 25 caused a torrent of more than 100 comments, a few in support, a lot in opposition. When we revealed council had changed its plans, more than 150 people liked our status.
There were good reasons why the mayor wanted to move the event. It has been dying. Many towns hold their own Australia Day shows, some with their own awards, and attendance at the council event has dwindled. A few years back there weren’t even any nominees for council’s prestigious awards.
The aim was to revitalise the awards, not to make any political statement. But it seems obvious that was how it would be interpreted, given the fierce national debate about changing the date. It’s like somebody flying a giant rainbow flag in front of their house just because they like the colours.
What’s done is done. I’m sure lessons have been learned. Now it is up to all the people who passionately urged council to keep the event on January 26 to actually show up and support it, including YPC’s elected members. Nominations for all council Australia Day awards close this Friday, November 17.
Nick Perry, Editor