BY RYAN QUINN
Three neighbouring inner-west councils have formed Labor-Liberal coalitions in recent annual elections, leading some to wonder if it’s a good or bad thing.
Labor mayors and Liberal deputy mayors now oversee Leichhardt, Marrickville and Canada Bay councils.
Leichhardt Independent Councillor John Stamolis says that these two parties being together in this way is odd.
“If you saw Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten governing together, you might get a little bit suspicious that the quality of debate might be diminished, or that they’ve got these things all planned and that their political interests are more of the plan than the people,” he said.
“I think it’s fair to say the average Australian sees Liberal and Labor as being sworn enemies, not a little family.”
Late last month, elections saw Labor Councillors Darcy Byrne and Sam Iskander elected as Mayor of Leichhardt and Marrickville councils, respectively, with Canada Bay Labor Mayor Angelo Tsirekas retaining the title since 2012.
They also saw Liberal Councillors Vera-Ann Hannaford, Rosana Tyler and Helen McCaffrey elected as Deputy Mayor of Leichhardt, Marrickville and Canada Bay councils, respectively.
Leichhardt Greens Councillor Daniel Kogoy described the Leichhardt and Marrickville elections as a “dirty deal” and a Labor party betrayal of the local community.
“Our residents have been fighting against the WestConnex and forced amalgamations. Our community has been campaigning hard for the sustainable development of the Bays Precinct including desperately needed open space,” he said in an email to City Hub.
“The Liberals are staunchly opposed to our community on these key issues, and now the Labor Party has hopped into bed with them again, just like they did in support of amalgamating Leichhardt Council.”
Labor was elected as Leichhardt mayor with Liberal votes, and Liberal was elected as deputy mayor using Labor votes conversely, without Liberal offering a mayoral candidate or Labor offering a deputy candidate, according to Clr Kogoy.
“That is a clear cut deal between the Labor and Liberal Parties for the mayoralty,” he said.
Upon losing her Leichhardt mayoral seat last month, Greens Councillor Rochelle Porteous urged her successors to put their political stance aside for the good of the community.
“I am also calling on Deputy Mayor Vera-Ann Hannaford to put the pro-WestConnex politics of her party to one side and fight for her community against WestConnex and for public transport,” she said in a media release.
Leichhardt Deputy Mayor Vera-Ann Hannaford said that council have found that the two parties can work together to positively affect its residents.
“This coalition won’t make any difference regarding community issues as the mayor and deputy mayor represent the decisions made by the majority of the councillors regardless of the way we cast our vote.”
Liberal Marrickville Deputy Mayor Rosana Tyler and Canada Bay Deputy Mayor Helen McCaffrey agree that a Liberal-Labor alliance can be practical and shows that there can be cooperation between the two parties.
Despite Clr Porteus’ concerns, she conceded that “nothing is achieved by one councillor, one mayor or one political party.”
Clr McCaffrey feels that wide representation in council is beneficial to the community.
“It’s always important to make sure the gender is represented, as with youth, cultures and age, and if you can facilitate all those things, that’s fantastic,” she said.
Clr Stamolis has also raised concerns regarding gender equality within the three councils, which saw the election of male mayors and female deputies.
“Inner-west politics talks about gender-equality all the time to the rest of Australia, we stand on a soapbox, and we don’t practice it,” he said.
“The City of Sydney can have a female mayor. So, what’s wrong with these other three councils, Vera-Ann Hannaford has been around for a lot longer than Darcy, why wasn’t the deal engineered that Vera-Ann was mayor and Darcy was the deputy mayor.”
All three deputy mayors disagreed that there is a gender issue, citing female mayors in their council history.
Clr Hannaford said that the Leichhardt Council has a good gender equality record.
“In the eleven and a half years I have been on Leichhardt Council either mayor or deputy mayor has been held by a female and sometimes both positions,” she said.
Clr Tyler looked to Labor Councillor and MP Jo Haylan’s time as the Marrickville Councils second female Mayor in 2013-14.
“Jo Haylan is currently the member for Summer Hill. She’s very, very busy, so she certainly wouldn’t have put her hand up for that position,” she said.
Clr McAffrey said that Canada Bay has had male deputies, as well as female mayors.
“Last council, we had more women on council than man. I don’t think there’s a gender issue,” she said.
Clr Stamolis feels that the recent elections raise questions which residents should be made aware of.
“These are just questions, I’m not saying it should or shouldn’t be. I’m just saying how do they go about this process and why is it like it is?” he said.
“It’s an odd arrangement, it seems like strange politics that people should know about and people should understand how this works.”