Inner West Independent

Byrne to seek preselection for Balmain

Leichhardt Mayor Darcy Byrne with wife Raelene and daughter Sinead. Photo: supplied

There will be very few raised eyebrows in Leichhardt after Darcy Byrne confirmed on Tuesday that he would seek Labor preselection for the state seat of Balmain.

Cr Byrne, who has been mayor since September 2012, was long thought to be planning a move to state parliament.

If successful in the community preselection, he will take on former Leichhardt mayor Jamie Parker, who won Balmain from Verity Firth in 2011 and became the first Greens MP to enter the NSW lower house.

While the preselection rules have not been confirmed, it is expected that ALP members and community members will be given a 50/50 weighting. The community preselection process is being trialled by NSW Labor in the electorates of Balmain, Newtown, Strathfield, Campbelltown and Londonderry.

Cr Byrne previously served as the national convenor for Labor Renewal, a campaign in support of the Bracks, Carr and Faulkner reforms designed to make the party more democratic and open.

“In this campaign Labor’s candidate will be chosen in the back streets of Balmain instead of the back rooms of Sussex Street,” he said of the community preselection.

Cr Byrne named 30-minute free parking and childcare among the crowning achievements of his mayoral tenure.

“As Mayor I’ve delivered funding for new childcare centres, built new sporting fields and playgrounds but this is not being matched by action at the state level,” he said. “I am seeking the support of our community to force the state government to start delivering for them.”

Cr Byrne has a steely reputation within Labor’s Left faction as a no-nonsense operator and a crusader against entrenched power systems in the party. While he is a supporter of community preselections, one may not eventuate in Balmain unless he has a challenger. The Inner West Independent understands Verity Firth may also contest the preselection, but was unable to reach her for comment.

Sitting MP Jamie Parker declined to nominate which candidate he would prefer to run against, but said Labor was still on the nose.

“I understand why so many people couldn’t vote for Labor at the last election and unfortunately those reasons haven’t changed,” he said.

“Even in opposition, NSW Labor has supported Packer’s casino, supported the Liberals’ attacks on live music and culture, and failed to stand up for public transport.”

Speaking to the Inner West Independent, Cr Byrne said he expected to face a preselection battle and welcomed the challenge.

“I think it’s an exciting opportunity to give local people a reason to believe again and to give ordinary people a real say,” he said.

“Obviously I have no control over who else nominates [but] I am running because I’m the best candidate to win the seat back for Labor.”

Cr Byrne would not rule out recontesting the mayoralty in September and said he stands by comments made at the previous mayoral election, which indicated Labor had agreed to a power-sharing deal with the Greens to hand over the positions of mayor and deputy mayor this year.

“I don’t think this [preselection decision] has any bearing upon back room agreements at Leichhardt Council,” Cr Byrne said.

He argued the Balmain community was being taken for granted by politicians in Macquarie Street.

“Our current representatives in the parliament are not forcing the government to deliver,” Cr Byrne said.

“I’ll do the same thing as I’ve done at council which is build coalitions and alliances…my intention is to continue to crash through bureaucracy and deliver what the local people need.”

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