Inner West Independent

Is de-amalgamation in the toilet?

De-amalgamation

Over 62 per cent of people in the Inner West voted in favour of de-amalgamation last year. Photo: Andrew Chuter.

Opinion by PETER HEHIR

Politics has always been a numbers game. The winners are those who get a seat at the trough, everybody else can “eat shit and die”, as one of my rougher acquaintances used to say. 

The numbers as far as the de-amalgamation of the Inner West Council (IWC) are clear. Over 62 per cent across the entire footprint want out, as do 68 per cent on the peninsula.  

They want their old council back, and to see the de-amalgamation of Inner West Council back to the former Ashfield, Leichhardt and Marrickville councils. 

Why? That’s easy. Local government should be local. Period. One of our recently elected councillors was overheard telling another “I don’t care what happens in your ward. That’s got nothing to do with me.” 

Inner West mayor Darcy Byrne doesn’t want the de-amalgamation.  

How do I know this?  

Byrne fights state government on every other issue except this one. Nothing on his Facebook and no council media releases about the demerger. This begs the question. Why not? 

He also spent considerable energy attempting to have the Electorate Official at the Hannaford Centre during the week of pre-polling at the December 2021 elections remove my legally parked vehicle adjacent to the polling booth. 

De-amalgamation

Darcy Byrne. Photo: Facebook.

Why? 

Because it boldly displayed the Vote Yes to Demerge! bright black on yellow corflutes in the front and rear windscreens. To the credit of the official, he was stoically unmoved, and Byrne burned while he handed out how-to-vote cards for the best part of a week.

Like many who wondered why the IWC are dragging their feet on advancing the demerger campaign, a campaign that must reflect the wishes of the majority of the constituents for reasons that are blatantly obvious – I received a form letter from Byrne ignoring the questions that were raised. 

As if to hammer home the point, I found it strange that the same email came twice with wording identical to that received by everybody else.  

Was it actually read? I guess not. 

I also know that the IWC doesn’t want it either. General Manager Peter Gainsford has publicly stated that 70 per cent of the IWC staff do not want to see this happen! 

It follows then that it’s hardly a coincidence that the firm Morrison Low, who misrepresented the case for de-amalgamation in the run-up to the last council elections, was again engaged to draft the IWC proposal.  

They don’t want it either. I shudder to think what it might contain. 

One wonders why the mayor trotted off to see the Minister for Local Government immediately following the publication of the overwhelming result of the plebiscite? 

The Minister is on record as stating that she is another who also doesn’t want de-amalgamation. He made two visits apparently, and didn’t bother to consult with, or even inform the councillors of his actions. 

Such an oddly undemocratic way for an elected official to act, don’t you think?  

Giving de-amalgamation a chance

There are seven councillors who are prepared to act in the interests of the community and eight who aren’t. If you don’t believe me then just check out this link.

So that the wishes of the community can be realised, councillor John Stamolis firmly holds the view that the Mayor and the General Manager should step aside from the demerger process, so that the strongest possible case can be presented. 

Whilst penning this I received an email from the Balmain Greens councillor Kobi Shetty, who was one of a number, along with Kath Hacking and John Stamolis, who witnessed Byrne trying to have my car removed:

Hi Peter. Nice to hear from you.  

As you know, the Greens have been working hard to support Residents for De-amalgamation in ensuring that the community is involved, and that the council develops a strong business case for de-amalgamation.  

It was incredibly disappointing to see how the extraordinary meeting was handled last week. We are seeking answers to your questions from the General Manager. I’ll let you know when we have a response. 

If you are concerned that the wishes of the people are being ignored and that democracy is being hijacked yet again, Give YES a Chance and give the mayor a blast!  

The “process” that Byrne talks about has already happened. The people have spoken. There have been enough words. Now it’s time for action!  

Don’t be surprised though if the questions asked in your letter, like mine, and those of everybody else, are ignored, and that the presented argument for de-amalgamation by Morrison Low is as thin as the gruel in Oliver Twist’s bowl.  

Peter Hehir is the Convenor of RAW (Rozelle Against WestConnex), who believe that the only hope of having the smoke stacks filtered is to get our stolen councils back. 

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