Inner West Independent

Council de-amalgamation: Rage Against the Machine

A recision motion put forward to stop the vote on deamalgamation going ahead has been defeated. Photo: Peter Boyle

Opinion by Peter Hehir

Monday night saw the ALP machine get a well-deserved kick in the teeth and the result was a great win for democracy!

The ALP Councillors, voting as a block, as is the ALP caucused custom, were soundly thrashed by a majority of 10 to 5 when their rescission motion; which effectively would have denied the residents of the Inner West a say on whether their local councils should be de-amalgamated, was easily defeated.

Even both of the Liberal councillors thought that it was anti-democratic! 

Now that’s really saying something… 

The attempt by the ALP to deny the people of the Inner West a say on whether the IWC should de-amalgamate and be put to a vote at the Council elections on September 4th, was tossed out with the rest of the political rubbish.

The scare tactics used by the ALP in an attempt to frighten the populace, came to nought. The cost can, should and no doubt will be borne by the State Government, even if we have to mount a massive campaign to force them to exercise the power that they have under the Act.

As a past Secretary and President of the Rozelle Branch of the ALP, frankly I’m appalled at what the ALP has become.  

Not just in the Inner West, but all over the country. The great, male, moving right show continues its jackbooted trampling of democracy. 

The ALP’s record here in the Inner West under the leadership of the Labor Party mayor, Darcy Byrne isn’t at all pretty. He worked for a period in the office of the current Federal Leader of the Opposition, Anthony Albanese, who has spent a lifetime inside the Labor Party machine.

The IWC deal done with the Liberals to ensure that the Greens, who had five councillors elected, were kept down, didn’t sit at all well with the true believers of either major party.

It’s my understanding that Byrne is facing suspension after 6 allegations levelled against him were upheld (4 in full and 2 in part) by The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT). 

The penalties will be announced on 28th June.  

Having never seen this situation before in the Inner West, it is not yet clear about the implications of any potential suspension and its impact on the functioning of the IWC.

It is a fact that we have seen 5 General Managers come and go under the stewardship of the mayor, Darcy Byrne. 

He used to be a local Balmain boy and attended Balmain Primary School with both of my sons, one a couple of years above and the other in the year below.  

His performance during his term as mayor, his relationship with IWC senior management and especially with the role he played in the amalgamation of Ashfield, Marrickville and Leichhardt Councils, bears some really serious scrutiny.

It’s a matter of public record that he tabled a motion at an IWC meeting where he’d threatened possible defamation proceedings by way of a ‘Concern Notice’ issued against a sitting independent councillor; forced her to apologise and didn’t declare his interest, which led to the investigation by NCAT. 

Professor of Journalism Wendy Bacon wrote in a recent City Hub article

“According to Council Minutes of March 10th 2020, the ‘conduct reviewer’ found Byrne breached the Council’s Social Media Policy in making comments about another Councillor which “a reasonable person would consider humiliating”, and by attributing motives of personal advancement to Lockie and accusing her of being “unprofessional, disrespectful and having bad manners,” the Mayor had acted in a way that would bring the Council into “disrepute.” 

Infiltration of newly formed community organisations, in response to some of the more outrageous decisions made by a succession of both Labor and Liberal State Governments, is unfortunately an all too common ALP practice. 

The political naivety of these groups makes them susceptible to the subversive tactics employed by some ALP apparatchiks and their diehard rusted on supporters, in order to take over, white-ant and thus neuter these well-meaning community groups from within.

However I’m not suggesting either Byrne or Albanese are such operators.

There are many genuine people in the ALP and I knew quite a few of them personally during my time as a member, but it was and still is, an organisation that is tearing itself apart internally. 

The vitriol that exists between the Left and Right factions has to be seen firsthand to be believed.

While I was the President of the Rozelle Branch, I continually refused overtures by both factions to join them and elected to remain independent, so not to be forced to toe any particular line. I was told by an ALP teacher on the Left that I had to join a faction or “I’d be hit by trucks travelling in both directions”.

This comment was made without malice and with genuine concern by someone who I both respected and admired and was around the time of the bashing of Federal ALP member Peter Baldwin, some forty years ago.

For years I kept a baseball bat inside the front door and slept with one beside my bed.

I firmly believe that local issues should be determined on merit and that decisions should be made by local representatives that benefit the community as a whole.

Councillors have also expressed alarm at the high level of staff resources for the mayor.  The Labor Party mayor has 5 staff, costing $2.1 million over the term.

That’s more than a quarter of the current IWC debt!  

Independent councillor John Stamolis has proposed that any requirement for more than two staff in the Mayor’s Office must come to a Council meeting for debate.  

He has also suggested that at least three of these current staff be allocated to roles which actually provide a direct service to our community.  

Sounds pretty good to me.

I can hardly wait for the 28th June…

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