Saturday, September 13, 2008

Election Day - what a journey

It's pre-dawn and I am ready to hit the early road with last minute deliveries to my poll workers. They come from family, friends and new found supporters of my campaign.

What a journey. And in a way it has been a 21 year journey, a journey without maps. In 1986 I led the campaign for the citizens of Liverpool to elect their own Mayor. Since 1980 the East Ward Progress Association ( remember the name "East" ward for a little tale at the end of this post) Councillor Don Syme several times had the balance of power vote on Council to elect the Mayor from amongst the Councillors. Our observation over the years was that for months leading up to the annual Mayoral election deals were being struck causing all sorts of aberrations when it came to voting on normal Council policy and resource allocation. After the election there was retribution effecting policy where deals were betrayed.

In December 1985 the late Kath Syme moved at the December EWPA meeting for us to utilise the provision ( Section 25A) under the Local Government Act to prompt a petition from the citizens of Liverpool requesting that we elect our Mayor directly. I was made Campaign Manager. We proceeded to target the 8000 signatures required and through it we forced Council into action in the face of the coming 1987 election. There was a lot of counter-play by the Councillors. The Labor Party under Craig Knowles worked against the proposition, as did the Liberals and old school Councillors. A young Mark Latham stirred up the dust by coming out in full support of it and he turned around the Labor policy position.

In the end Council was forced through public pressure to resolve to hold a Constitutional Referendum at the 1987 election on the matter. Over 70% of electors voted in favour of the proposition and from 1991 it became a reality.

Mark Latham was Liverpool's first Mayor elected by the people. Upon Mark's election to Federal Parliament he later stood down and the egregious George Paciullo was elected in 1995 and 1999 to see him lead Liverpool City Council into the $30 million Oasis blackhole.

So now I find myself standing for election as Mayor in 2008. I happily stood back from civic affairs when Mark Latham was Mayor but was gradually drawn back in as the Oasis debacle began its journey to oblivion.

An interesting point from all this. There are only 31 of NSW's 152 Councils that have a popularly elected Mayor. In 1993 the Local Government Act was completely revamped. The provision we used in 1985/6 ( Section 25A) was removed from the Act. The only way I understand for a Council to change its method of Mayoral election is for the existing Councillors to resolve to hold a Constitutional Poll on the matter. And of course they will not do it as they prefer their annual circus of king making. The NSW Parliament is full of local government hacks who act firstly in the interest of their chums coming through the Local Government system.

If elected I will be an advocate for Local Government reform and will target the goal of having all NSW Mayors elected by the people in 2012.

Well, the sun is now up and I am on the road.

What will the will of the people deliver today?

Final Note:

The East Ward of Liverpool was wiped off the electoral in a vindictive act led by Hon Paul Lynch MP when he was a Liverpool Councillor in 1995. An opportunity arose through an abnormality associated with the new 1993 Local Government Act and popularly elected Mayors. Lynch saw the opportunity and led his Caucus to break up the newly established policy of 4 wards across Liverpool into 2 Wards ( North and South) which purposely divided in two the long standing place of political agitation, Liverpool's East Ward.

Mr Lynch's sacking this week from the Local Government Ministry position has something to do with this. We had already begun, since November 2007, a campaign to re-establish our more representative Wards (North, South, East and West). Mr Lynch's past behaviour would be still an embarrassment to the much troubled NSW Labor Government.

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