Call for magistrate to apologise for "cesspit" comments
A BUNDABERG businessman has called for an Ipswich judge to apologise after she described Bundaberg as a drug cesspit.
Neil McPhillips said he was "absolutely disgusted" that former Bundaberg magistrate Deborah Vasta "chose her 'holier-than-thou' position as Ipswich magistrate to denigrate the communities of Bundaberg and Hervey Bay".
Ms Vasta described the cities as "cesspits for drug dealers" on Monday in her sentencing remarks to a drug offender who was planning to move Hervey Bay after his release from prison.
"Whilst every community in Australia is recognising drug issues and most have people working extremely hard at trying to overcome those issues, here we have an Ipswich-based magistrate using her position to publicly unfairly criticise other communities," Mr McPhillips said.
"If magistrate Vasta was still in position in Bundaberg and made similar comments about Ipswich, I am sure Ipswich Mayor Pisasale would be yelling from the rooftops demanding a public apology ... and this is exactly what we should be doing.
"Comments such as these do no good for anyone."
But local politicians did not go as far as to demand an apology.
"Deborah Vasta is a very experienced and highly-regarded magistrate who has served the people of the Bundaberg Region for many years with passion and high distinction," Mayor Jack Dempsey said.
"It is unfortunate that drugs are ubiquitous in modern society. It is also concerning that drugs can be found in communities all over Australia.
"I commend the NewsMail for highlighting these societal issues through their reporting because we, as a community, need to work together to find new ways of addressing drug-related problems in Australian communities.
"All regions have their issues but the Bundaberg region has a lot of positives and these shouldn't be undersold. Like Ipswich, the Bundaberg region is a wonderful place in which to live, work, play and invest."
Hinkler MP Keith Pitt said Ms Vasta was "entitled to her opinion".
"It's only damaging if the media continue to run these comments," Mr Pitt said.
"I will continue to work with all levels of government to attract more investment, more development and more tourists to this region."