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Deamalgamate says NSW!

People from across NSW took a stand against deamalgamation earlier this week. Photo collage: Peter Boyle.

Opinion by PETER HEHIR

It’s a rare thing indeed that the “Tree of Knowledge” has seen such a gathering.

Situated just on the edge of the Domain adjacent to the rear of the NSW Parliament, it’s the chosen spot for interviews and media releases and has no doubt witnessed many truths; and just as many lies.

Concerned residents, Councillors, Members of Parliament and community activists of all complexions from all over NSW, gathered under threatening skies to castigate the NSW Government for forcing the council amalgamations on us. Amalgamations that have proven to be a financial disaster.

This was foretold in a damning report by KPMG – which was immediately buried and hasn’t seen the light of day since. Attempts to get hold of a copy and to quote from the summary have proven fruitless. It has disappeared without a trace.

But those who have seen it have described the amalgamation of many NSW councils as an affront to democracy and one of the Baird/Berejiklian Government’s biggest financial blunders (and there are plenty of those to choose from).

Tuesday at noon saw representatives at the “Tree of Knowledge” from all corners of NSW.

Taking a Stand

Placards reading “Save Pittwater”, “Demerge Gundagai Council Now!” “Demerge Tumbarumba”, “Bring Back Marrickville”; representatives from Wellington, Wyong, Great Lakes, Harden, Palerang, Cootamundra, Gloucester, Leichhardt and Ashfield were there in numbers.  

“Save Bombala”, “Bring Back Pittwater Council”, “Give us our Council back”, “No Forced Amalgamations” placards were also prominent, and there were dozens of the yellow and black “Vote Yes! to Demerge” corflutes.

These were the work of the Residents for Deamalgamation and the entire event was organised by the rapidly expanding State wide Demerge NSW Alliance (DNA).

The brightly coloured ‘VOTE YES!’ corflutes on the deamalgamation plebiscite are appearing on front fences all across the Inner West, encouraging voters to get Leichhardt, Ashfield and Marrickville Councils back; and to have the NSW Government foot the bill, as the Act, (which was assented to on Monday 24 May 2021 and is therefore now part of the Local Government Act of NSW), permits them to.

Councillors from the Inner West Council (IWC) finally managed to break the extraordinary Liberal/Labor alliance that consistently opposed the plebiscite.

Looking Inner West

Due to the urging of the Independents and the Greens, the nexus was finally broken when the two Libs abstained on the plebiscite vote and it was finally passed.

This “Laboral” coalition was forged in 2017 by the recently ousted ALP mayor Darcy Byrne, thus finally paving the way for the first plebiscite on deamalgamation to be ever held here in NSW, in conjunction with the Local Government elections on December 4th.

Earlier this year Byrne was brought before the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal and faced the possibility of his being stood down as Mayor, or removed from office altogether.

Professor of Journalism Wendy Bacon reported in City Hub that “in May this year, Byrne was found guilty by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) of breaching conflict of interest provisions and improperly using his power as a Councillor to get two fellow Councillors Col Hesse and Pauline Lockie to apologise after he had threatened them with defamation proceedings.”

The Tribunal said Byrne acted unethically and misused his public office. He was subsequently disciplined with the loss of several months’ pay.

His organisation “Local Labor” is fielding him as the “Labor” candidate for the Balmain ward. His flyer doesn’t have any suggestion at all of any endorsement from the ALP, which seems to me to be most decidedly odd?

Are they trying to tell us something? Is Byrne now on the nose, no longer the ALP’s golden-haired boy?

Polls being conducted recently across the State are clearly showing that these forced amalgamations are not at all popular, with figures of 80 per cent against the amalgamations consistently showing up.

The mainstream media are deaf and dumb on this issue, apart from a recent piece in the SMH, which to my mind, just skimmed over the surface.

The massive financial deficits sustained by all of these Councils were barely hinted at and there can be no doubt that they are directly attributed to the forced amalgamations.

This was predicted in the KPMG report and the projected IWC 2021 surplus of $30,000,000 has morphed into a massive $20,000,000 deficit!

Though some very recent creative accounting from the IWC now tells a very different story.

The Morrison Low report did not sit well with those who have bothered to read it, raising more questions than it answered and exhibiting what has been described as a pretty evident bias.

Byrne’s Local Labor is running a scare campaign on social media saying that we can’t afford to deamalgamate.

This perspective ignores the two most salient points.

One, that the costs will be borne by the NSW Government (see above) and the other being that we bloody well can’t afford not to!

Independent analysis shows that we are in deficit now and will be for at least the next nine years!

If we fail to deamalgamate, then our services will deteriorate, our rates will continue to rise in an attempt to buy our way out of the NSW imposed financial hole; and these costs will also be passed on to those who are renting properties in Balmain, Ashfield, Marrickville, Stanmore and Leichhardt.

Please circulate the link of this article to all of your friends here in the Inner West and also please ask them to vote to wrestle back local government from the two major parties on December 4th.

Never doubt the quite extraordinary things that just one individual can achieve with the simple stroke of a pen!

Imagine what can happen when there are tens of thousands of us…

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