BY GEORGIA CLARK
With early voting opening this week for the Inner West Council elections, the battle for one of three positions on the Ashfield ward is escalating, with predictions swaying in Labor’s favour. The race is braced to be a close call, after the number of Councillors was slashed following the 2016 amalgamation of councils across the district.
According to Ben Raue, election analyst at the Tally Room, although the Greens have historically been the weakest in the Ashfield ward they are, along with Labor, likely to win a seat.
“Labor’s vote is better in Ashfield than the Leichhardt and Balmain wards, but usually less than the Marrickville ward. I think Labor and the Greens should each win a seat, but this ward will be the hardest ward for the Greens to win, judging by underlying political trends,’” he said.
Labor has typically dominated the Ashfield ward, which spans Dulwich Hill, Summer Hill and southern parts of Ashfield. Mary Drury, Labor candidate, is confident that Labor will continue to receive popular support in the area.
“Labor has for over 100 years selected candidates to represent Ashfield. We have rarely had a majority on council but we have managed to have some very fine Labor Mayors, like Lucile McKenna. We hope that the policies and people we are putting forward will again attract a strong level of support from the community.”
The September 9 election has drawn both new and old-timers from the former Councils into the running, including the former Mayor of Ashfield, Morris Mansour, who is running as an Independent. Former Councillor Julie Passas and her team of Liberals are also running, as is the Socialist Alliance’s Susan Price and Liberal Democrat’s Simon Henderson.
According to Ms. Price, the local Council and the upcoming elections play a crucial role in grassroots democracy.
“Councils can take a lead on issues of the day, when state and federal governments do not. For example, in supporting equal marriage rights, or proposing inclusive events on January 26 that face up to the realities of Australia’s colonial past, or in welcoming refugees into our community,” she said.
The Greens have dealt the Inner West election’s youngest candidate, Tom Kiat, who is vying for a position on the Ashfield ward at just 25-years-old. With 36% of Inner West residents aged under 30, Mr Kiat is hopeful that the Greens will win a seat.
“Greens on both Councils have a proven track record,” he said. “I think that’s why we have a strong support base. We’ve got plenty of runs on the board, often through working productively with Labor and progressive independents. More recently we’ve been able to amplify local issues by working with our Greens colleagues in the NSW parliament. This is an important reason people trust the Greens in the Inner West – we don’t say one thing at a local government level and another in a state campaign.”
According to Mr Raue, although the Greens have experienced more success in other wards, the odds are still stacked in the 25-year-old’s favour.
“Tom Kiat is the Greens’ lead candidate and thus has a good chance of winning,” he said. “Councils tend to be dominated by older councillors but young candidates are not that unusual, and sometimes they win. Young voters make up a large part of the council and often have different interests to the home-owning older residents, and having young candidates can provide a different perspective.”
It’s been a tumultuous year for Inner West Council and constituents alike, as the amalgamation shakeup saw an administrator govern the newly founded mammoth council. After 16 months without a democratically elected council, Mr Kiat says that the constituents are desperate for a contender who is community-driven.
“Since the forced amalgamation and the destruction wreaked by WestConnex, I’ve spoken to many people who are feeling powerless,” he said. “I’m running for Council because I want to see Inner west communities confident in their own collective power, the power to say no to idiotic projects and plans imposed by developers and the state government, and the power to take positive action.”
The election comes as Inner West Administrator Richard Pearson vouches that significant progress has been made in the Council over the past 16 months, but admits that a lot more is yet to be done.
“The next 12 months will be a pivotal time for the incoming Council to continue to support staff with their job of building an organisationally merged Council,” Mr Pearson said.
According to Ms. Price, the time is ripe for the people of the Inner West’s voices to be heard.
“People are sick of being trampled underfoot by greedy governments and corporations”, she said. “They worry that the forced amalgamation of the inner west’s three councils will mean a less representative and less accountable local government,” she said.
With less than a week left until ballots open, the battle for the third seat on the Ashfield ward is set to be a close one.