Opinion by PETER HEHIR
At last night’s special council meeting a most extraordinary thing happened. The citizens of the Inner West actually had a victory!
On a debate that was at times acrimonious, with the proponents of the embarrassingly and hugely in debt mega council – including Labor mayor Darcy Byrne and his cohorts in the Liberal Party – who argued that de-amalgamation would cause undue hardship to the present IWC staff and that it would be irresponsible to return the IWC to the three Councils that comprise it.
These are Marrickville, Ashfield and Leichhardt.
However the overwhelming majority who spoke from the gallery urged the Councillors to act in the interests of the community and to vote to conduct a poll on Election Day, September 4th, to ascertain the wishes of the people.
No harm in that surely? After all, isn’t that what democracy is all about?
Government of the people, by the people, for the people? Let the people have their say. Freedom of the press and all that; including the right, if not the responsibility, to express an opinion, especially so if it is an overwhelmingly popular one!
And that’s exactly what happened! Those councillors who have consistently placed their communities ahead of their party voted 8 to 7 for the de-amalgamation poll on September 4th.
Balmain State Member of Parliament Jamie Parker said, “finally the community will be able to have their say!”
Independent Baludarri (Balmain) ward Councillor John Stamolis, who framed the motion said, “it’s time for our community to be heard”.
Pip Hinman, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Damun (Stanmore) ward, who has been campaigning for the community to decide on de-amalgamation, welcomed the decision by the Inner West Council last night to poll residents on reversing the forced amalgamation.
She said; “it was good to see a united front of Greens and independent councillors putting the community first — supporting our right to have a direct say in the forced amalgamations.”
Well, when I say that the citizens of the Inner West actually had a victory, perhaps I’m being just a tad over optimistic.
Whilst it is a fact that the IWC has now voted to conduct the poll on the 4th of September, this won’t actually happen, unless the new IWC General Manager, Mr Peter Gainsford – a most personable gentleman by all accounts – actually lodges the application with the NSW Electoral Comission before the end of the month!
If this application isn’t lodged, then there will be no poll on the de-amalgamation question, and the hard work of those forward thinking councillors led by John Stamolis and Victor Macri, with the support of Pauline Lockie and the Greens, will all be for nothing.
But the window is closing.
All it would take is about 20 minutes of the GM’s time for him to have his secretary fill in a form, he signs it and the IWC lodges the application. He will have done his duty and the elected representatives and the community will have witnessed democracy at work.
We all need to do what we can to make the community’s win last night as public as possible and to ensure that the IWC now does what it has been instructed to do.
The poll on de-amalgamation can now proceed. But will it?
All that is required is the will and the quill; just the simple stroke of a pen…