BY GEORGIA FULLERTON
Waverley Mayor Sally Betts used her casting vote to reverse a previously successful motion to hold a plebiscite on merging with neighbouring councils.
With one Liberal Councillor absent at the previous meeting, Waverley Council voted to have a plebiscite on the question of merging with bordering municipalities of Woollahra and Randwick.
Waverley Council hoped that the poll would coincide with the upcoming federal election.
In a chaotic meeting on May 23, several councillors were warned they could face penalties after threatening to stage a boycott following the decision by Mayor Betts.
Mayor Betts, who also works for Malcolm Turnbull as an electorate officer, said that a survey of 600 residents conducted on the mergers a year ago had already established support from residents.
Councillor Dominic Wy Kanak told City Hub the decision was an attack on fundamental democracy.
“Residents have told me that even though they have been Liberal voters, they won’t be voting Liberal at the next election.
“They see Prime Minister Turnbull as turning a blind eye to the People’s pleas for him to stand up for Local Democracy and intervene to protect the People’s rights to vote and maintain their Local Elected Representatives.
Mr Wy Kanak said: “Some are even saying ‘Why vote for a Prime Minister who does not stand up for Democracy.
If a Local Mayor and the Prime Minister can’t stand up for Democracy then our fundamental social and financial stability is under threat.”
Lenore Kulakauskas, from Friends of Bondi Pavillion, said that Mayor Betts was being tactical.
“She delayed this Extraordinary council meeting until her liberal colleague had returned from holidays, feeling confident no doubt that it would be an even split with all the liberals and block voting as they usually do for motions not raised by themselves.”
Ms Kulakauskas said she believed Waverley Council was dysfunctional.
“The council meeting last night was very rowdy and very disappointing. I had sent emails to all the councillors prior to the meeting, as had other members of the community, imploring them to support democracy and vote to hold a proper poll for the residents of Waverley to see if they supported being merged with Randwick and Woollahra. However, we lost.”
On May 19, local Wentworth voters approached Mr Turnbull’s office in Edgecliff, to ask that he sign a Candidate Commitment on Local Democracy, on behalf of himself and the Liberal Party. The commitment would require the Prime Minister to oppose forced council amalgamations and support properly conducted referendums.
A Waverley Council spokesperson told City Hub that “Waverley Council has already sought the views of its community.”
“In 2015 Council engaged IRIS Research to undertake community consultation on the issue of amalgamation. Council wanted to ensure that its due diligence and community consultation was open and transparent so it commissioned three surveys: 1) a comprehensive telephone-based deliberative poll among the area’s residents; 2) a telephone-based deliberative poll amongst businesses in the area; and 3) a resident’s online and paper survey.”