Going to extremes: How the saga of Townsville’s dodgy mayor highlights a grave threat to our democracy

Troy Thompson’s demise means local government has avoided a sinister attempt to turn councils into havens for conspiracy theorists, writes Greg Hallam

Jun 12, 2024, updated Jun 12, 2024

The old adage that if you play with fire you end up getting burned became a truism in the case of Townsville voters and its under siege Mayor Troy Thompson, who has been found out and humiliated telling porkies about his military service, tertiary education, business acumen and legal proceedings for bankruptcy and domestic violence.

As your scribe pointed out back in early April, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation dropped Thompson as their candidate for the seat of Thuringowa for the 2020 State election after they discovered his questionable past.

The less than transparent Thompson, now an open joke after repeated national TV exposes and investigative journalism by Townsville blogger Malcolm Weatherup (aka the Magpie), was openly backed by an outfit called My Place.

It’s a fringe right movement that has come to light across Australia over the past few years. My Place claimed the new Mayor as theirs and had booth workers at most polling places in Townsville on election day back in March.

My Place is a national movement that claims to have thousands of online supporters, hundreds of local chapters and largely exists on Facebook and at Sunday markets across Australia where they sell fresh fruit and vegetables in order to peddle their beliefs .

They arose out of the long Covid lockdowns in Victoria. It has a long laundry list of pet hates _ mass vaccinations, 5G networks , chemtrails, fluoride in the water supply etc. Their members claim to be Sovereign citizens, that is, outside the control of governments laws , institutions and taxation .

In truth, they are seditious anarchists. Cleverly, they wrap themselves in the language of community. The group’s beliefs raised the concern of Deakin University extremism expert Dr John Roose who said: “They are highly adept at couching their language in that of love and well being and caring about others and the community. If you cut to the heart of the vocabulary and the language used, and you cut to the heart of the conspiratorial theories that informs it, then this is an extreme group”.

These types of groups are not new and gaining a foothold in local government is usually their aim.

The League of Rights tried unsuccessfully to undermine and make unworkable the former Gatton Shire in the late 1990s by inundating the Council with hundreds of Right To Information requests.

The external legal advisors to the council, under cover, attended a local meeting of the group and exposed the plot.

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My Place claim to have succeeded in getting councillors elected in NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

Troy Thompson’s election as Mayor of a city with a population of 200,000 and carrying great strategic importance to Australia was the movements crowning glory _ until it ended in flames two months into his term.

His impending loss of office, which is a foregone certainty, will be a footnote to the sheer folly of getting hoodwinked by a rogue group.

In some ways, the election of Troy Thompson with his long history of dishonesty and obfuscation, including changing his name by deed poll, highlights the dangers to society of the gutting of both public and private sector media newsrooms across the country.

For many decades reasonably resourced local media outlets, especially in big provincial cities such as Townsville, would have uncovered and exposed Thompson’s true character prior to election day. He would have never been elected. But there are real consequences for the fourth estate’s demise.

My Place is said to be considering running candidate at the upcoming state election in October this year.

Be warned.

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