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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

He's an embarrasment « Previous | |Next »
March 30, 2004

So what has been the reaction to the victory of Clover Moore in the Sydney Mayoral race and the success of the Greens by the conservative side of politics?

Varied I would guess. No doubt they would not enjoy the solid Labor performance in the suburbs. Presumably they would enjoy the electorate kick against the Carr Labor Government in NSW. I guess they would have reservation about Moore and the Greens having their hands on the levers of power.

That's a bit of a bland account I know. So we need to dig a bit beneath the surface.

But here is one reaction. It is something different. Padraic P McGuinness starts reasonably enough:

"... the Greens vote....represents the disaffected inner urban upper-middle classes, especially those who consider themselves on the political left, and not the electorate as a whole. These have become more and more significant in local government over the past 20 years, and practise a kind of populist activism which requires a good deal of leisure."

Fair enough. I can accept that description. It's a reasonable account, and it fits with Karen's analysis in the comments here.

Then P McGuinness starts to warm about the political significance of this new lefty populist activism:

" its accompanying obsessive opposition to globalisation or to "economic rationalism", it [lefty local activism] is not based on any proper analysis of what is actually going on, but on an overarching climate of fear, suspicion and inchoate anger....the increasing aggressiveness of middle-class protest a kind of tantrum of the ageing....Any policy approach, any analysis which disagrees with the increasingly fusty prejudices formed in the 1960s and '70s is treated as prima facie evil."

My my. This local activism is driven by out-of-control emotion, not reason.

Is that so? Does the duality of the old Enlightenment's (Platonic) cliches hold up?

Let's have a look at Clover Moore's policies. Here is a sample:

"Merged council areas will be sensitively integrated. Proposals for discussion will include the creation of wards and/or precincts, and a plan for a linked city of villages that will celebrate and promote the diverse character of the expanded city, and help revitalise business precincts.... Services and facilities, including open space, will be planned for a balanced and comprehensive coverage across the city. Revised and more effective development controls will better protect resident amenity and give greater certainty to developers.The city's public land and foreshores need to be defended from indiscriminate sell-offs, with maximum access provided.....The CBD's commercial expansion needs to be planned, not developer-driven."

Sounds reasonble to me. Less the voice of out-of-control emotion and more of the voice of reason.

However, McGuinness' tone becomes quiet shrill:

".... the incursion of the activist middle classes into the elected bodies. That sounds the death knell for good local government. State governments which have to handle a much broader geographical and economic range of issues, especially population growth and the accompanying demand for ever better and bigger housing, find themselves attacked on all sides by screaming white-collar mobs motivated by ideology, anger and self-interest."

The Carr government is faced with screaming white collar mobs! The anti-democratic mob who have now gained control of local government.

It's McGuinness being emotional now, is it not?

So what does McGuinness advise the rational governors to do when faced with the irrational mob controlling local government? He says: "The only solution may eventually have to be the abolition of local government in its traditional form."

There must be a few conservative twitching in their seats at the emotionalism of the language and the exposure of their anti-democratic tendencies.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:40 PM | | Comments (3)


well he is right you known, ever since the enfranchisement expanded to non-property owners responsible democracy has been threatened

oligarchy is the true natureal form of a civilised society, and its sibling monopoly is the pure form to which all free markets tend to get to, with or without pesky competition watching statutary bodies

oligarchy and monopoly are one, why resist


People always get what they vote for. Inner Sydney has voted for a Mayor who tilts strongly toward the anti-development NIMBY viewpoint.

That's a problem for people who take the view that Sydney belongs to everyone and not just those who live in the CBD. But its also democracy.

I recall Paddy used to be a local Councillor himself -- 1999-2004 on the inner Sydney council of Leichhardt. I also recall he had the worst attendance record of any Councillor. If he was so opposed to the actions of these nimby green councils, why did he never bother to show up and make himself heard?

Mr McGuinness' mock outrage clearly extends only as far as an armchair rant, and not to actually doing anything.

By the way, I'm no supporter of the way Clover and friends seem likely to run the council, and I voted for someone else at the election. I think she'll be a disaster.

But the results are in and my candidate didn't become Mayor, not even close. So I had my say, my side lost, time to stop complaining and see what Clover can do. Maybe she'll surprise us all, maybe she won't -- let's give her a chance.

By the way (and sorry for the double post), I notice Paddy is expressing concern for the poor State Labor Government that will be forced to deal with these mad new local councils.

Amazing! Bob Carr will be touched at Paddy's interest in his welfare.

It's worth remembering that States have insulated themselves against needless local obstructionism through the designation of various roads, traffic paths, zoning laws and rate levels as State issues.

That's why Clover Moore can't block off Hargreaves or South Dowling Streets, or rezone William Street to get rid of the brothels (all things she has advocated as a State MP, none of which a Lord Mayor can do). South Dowling is a State road and Clover has no say over it. Hargreaves is part of the RTA traffic plan for eastern Sydney and can't be interfered with even though Council maintain it. Registered brothels are legal in NSW and Clover would have to zone William Street residential and close all the shops (you can't discriminate against any one type of legal business without discriminating against them all)

So for all the huffing and puffing from the new Mayor and friends, there are tight State-imposed limits on her power and inner Sydney will hardly become the wasteland that Paddy seems to fear.

Worth noting too that a great many of Clover's election promises are impossible without State support. If she's serious about getting things done and not just looking to whinge on a bigger stage, she'll have to work with Carr and not constantly against him.

We'll see.