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Why should we wear the pain?

The Inner West will have their say on de-amalgamation on December 4. Photo: Andrew Chuter.

Opinion by PETER HEHIR and ANDREW CHUTER

At the upcoming council election on December 4th, residents of the Inner West will finally have a say on restoring their local councils which were abolished by Mike Baird in 2016.

They will receive an additional ballot paper asking whether they want to bring back Leichhardt, Marrickville and Ashfield Councils.

Mike Baird’s council amalgamations were always deeply unpopular. A month after the three councils were abolished, 5,000 people protested in the March Against Baird.

Speaking at the rally, Darcy Byrne, the former Mayor of Leichhardt spoke out against his sacking by “Dictator Baird” and vowed to fight on.

Opposing forced council amalgamations became a centrepiece of Labor policy.

Luke Foley MP, the then leader of NSW Labor, in his address to the party’s Annual Conference in July 2017 said:

“Labor will allow local votes, plebiscites, on demerging these councils.”

At candidates’ forums in the lead up to the first Inner West Council election in 2017, Labor candidates made their promises clear. Anna York stated:

Labor’s position is to give people a say on whether or not they want to go ahead with that amalgamation and give them the say that they were denied in the first place.”

Lucille McKenna said she would be bound by Labor policy:

“You might recall about 10 or 12 years ago, State Labor amalgamated quite a few councils, country councils particularly. They’re still wearing the pain from that. They now have a policy that any community that wants to have a vote can do so, and they will honour that and allow them to proceed with a deamalgamation if it is the will of the people.”

Party policy leading into the 2019 NSW State election, made it unequivocal:

“NSW Labor does not oppose the merger or demerger of councils, but insists that this must be done voluntarily, with the clear support of local residents, as confirmed through a local plebiscite. NSW Labor will legislate to put in place independent mechanisms to enable this to occur.”

Speaking at the Local Government NSW annual conference in October 2018, Shadow Minister for Local Government Peter Primrose MLC, made it abundantly clear:

“The next State Labor Government will legislate to allow voluntary demergers”

So you would think that when the opportunity to hold a plebiscite to demerge the Inner West Council came up for a vote, that the five Labor councillors would all be in favour, right?

Wrong! They all voted against it.

Unbelievable!

Why did they renege on their promise? Did the policy change?

Well, in fact, no.

Just a few weeks ago, Greg Warren MP, Shadow Minister for Local Government, reaffirmed NSW Labor’s position when he told the launch of the new Demerger NSW Alliance (DNA):

“The 2016 forced council mergers policy was a dismal failure. […] We will give communities their say, by referendum, if you want to stay together, so be it, but if you want to de-merge, also, so be it, because we believe the future of communities should be in the hands of local communities”

Why is “Local Labor”, so frightened of giving the people a vote? Surely it’s our democratic right to be legally entitled to express an opinion?

What is so wrong with leaving the future of communities in the hands of local communities?

Sure – not all opinions are equally well thought through or even have equal validity, but that shouldn’t be a bar to that individuals’ right to express it. That’s what democratic government is all about.

Well, isn’t it?

Tell us we’re wrong… or better yet tell us WHY we’re wrong?

The mainstream media are silent on this issue because their editorial content is controlled by a couple of media barons who are keen to tell us what to think, what to wear, how to vote and the sort of homes that we should live in.

It’s the Inner West that is now wearing the pain. The projected 2021 IWC surplus of $30,000,000 under the stewardship of Byrne, is now an estimated $20,000,000 deficit!

We are the first and only LGA in NSW to have a vote on the issue. The eyes of NSW are on us.

We need to take our local councils back and to hell with “Local Labor” and their Liberal mates!

Let’s set the bastards straight, Vote YES! to de-amalgamate.

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