Mayor reports racist refugee Facebook talk to cops

Mayor Ray Brown.
Mayor Ray Brown. Lyndon Keane

WESTERN Downs Mayor Ray Brown has reported "racist" Facebook comments made over his Syrian refugee pledge to police.

His offer to house, in the Western Downs, 500 Syrian families fleeing the Islamic State (IS) conflict has raised the ire of many living in the electorate.

Cr Brown said that he had reported two comments made on Facebook to police and charges may be laid.

The plan currently aims to distribute Syrian families, many of them Christian, in Chinchilla, Miles and Tara - not "individual male Muslim men ... raping all the women" Cr Brown said.

In response to what he described as "extremely racist" comments, Mr Brown wanted to clarify several things, particularly concerning the phrasing of stories on the internet.

He said he "offered", not "committed" to accepting the migrants.

The goal was not to settle the refugees permanently but to offer them a safe haven until they can be resettled in Syria.

Mr Brown also said the refugees would depend on welfare from the Federal Government and international aid agencies for the course of their stay, meaning they would not affect the jobs market.

He said if the refugees were going to spend their aid, he would prefer that they spent it in the form of vouchers, and in the Western Downs.

On the question of consultation, Mr Brown said the information was leaked unexpectedly by Deputy Premier Jacki Trad on Friday at a conference addressing the refugee situation.

NZ Herald

With the story broken by the Dalby Herald, Mr Brown's plan to discuss the idea at a Monday meeting was derailed and the resulting online furore had divided the community.

"If you want to harp on the issue that I didn't talk to councillors, you have to remember this," he said.

"We have a planning scheme which has been to public consultation and has not been passed in five years. A flood study - 18 months of consultation, and still no fruition.

"In relation to refugees, they have a crisis right now.

"Sometimes you have to make a call."

Syria is currently surrounded by communities sympathetic to Islamic State (IS), with a large area of directly IS-controlled land on its northeast border.

The Federal government is now aware that 500 rentals in the Western Downs remain vacant and suggested that three years' rent be granted to landlords accommodating refugees.

Of those 500, just over 70 have been tendered as potential homes for the 500 families, according to Mr Brown.

Mr Brown said he did not believe the Federal Government would force landlords to accommodate refugees.

A petition accusing Mr Brown of exaggerating local accommodation figures has gathered 36 signatures.

Topics:  editors picks islamic state toowoomba western downs

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