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LGAQ heads into the ruck again

Friday 7 February 2020

By LGAQ CEO, Greg Hallam AM

Life's best lessons are learned at the bottom of a rugby ruck, that and the fine art of lobbying.

After another week in the trenches, my mind turned to what it must look like to those on the sidelines, or even just a few metres away from the grind of the ruck - or the public policy debate -  over the Crime and Corruption Commission’s call for the element of intent to be removed from the Palaszczuk Government’s new conflict of interest offences.

You might not be able to see the ball inside the ruck but that does not mean there is no effort being applied to secure it.

Skin and hair were flying as the LGAQ worked to secure third party accreditation for our second submission to the Parliamentary Economics and Governance Committee and to alert the public to the serious consequences of the CCC’s amendment through all the communication channels and media tools at our disposal.

And then there was the crafting of the submission document itself to ensure we made the argument with no stone left unturned.


For the non -rugby followers (you poor deprived souls), a ruck forms when a player is tackled and must release the ball. The attacking and opposing sides both then form a mini scrum of sorts and use their football boots to try to get the ball to their side of the advantage line where they can pick it up and start again.

There can be anywhere from three to four players in a ruck, up to a dozen or more.

In my days of playing senior rugby, rucking in the 1970s to the mid-1980s in Brisbane and Canberra was, as we called it, self-regulated and something of a dark art.

The players sorted it out among themselves with minimum input from the referees. There was nowhere near as many cameras and red and yellow cards were rarely issued.

Being on the bottom of the ruck meant you were on your own and taking kicks as you used your body to shield the ball from the other side, the ultimate expression of taking one for your team. That dark art lost me several teeth and scored me over 30 stitches during a 10-year playing career. But it also taught me plenty about teamwork and the importance of sticking together, trusting your mates, as well as an aversion to tags and the odd stray boot. So much of what we do at the LGAQ is not obvious to our members. It simply cannot be as Cabinet and the policy formulation process don't work like that.

Yes, there are written and oral submissions – and even scuffles in the media - but the real arm wrestling happens out of sight.

At the LGAQ we always enter the contest to win, not just to put up a good fight.

We pride ourselves on being both local government experts and artful campaigners, not adverse to the rough and tumble of the political process.

That said, we are also pragmatists and while not taking a backward step, we realise there’s always next week’s game, often against the same team.

Our track record on advocacy is second to none among peak bodies. Think the scuttling compulsory preferential voting, just for starters.

We are currently fighting the CCC’s attempt to do away with the mens rea intent deference with every fibre in our body, prepared to lose some bark and use all the game craft we have learned at the bottom of many metaphorical rucks. The same can be said about the impracticality of the proposed rules around informal meeting and site inspections.

We have thrown up a phalanx of proper defences. The LGAQ is not lying down. You just cannot see the ball trapped under the melee of legs and boots.

Why do we do it? It is not for the sport of the contest, nor to proving we are the smartest kids on the block, nor for the self-gratification of pyrrhic passing victories. The LGAQ does it for our members, Queensland councils, the good, honest doers, salt-of-the-earth people, folks we love and adore like Cr Lyn McLaughlin the Mayor of the Burdekin - please listen to her story.

It is for her and for you that we battle.

Local Government Association of Queensland
LG House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006

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