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hope she wins « Previous | |Next »
March 22, 2004

Sydneysider's vote for their Mayor next Saturday. Local government suddenly looks fashionable. Let us hope that the Independent Clover Moore MP becomes Lord Mayor.

That would help to create an independent power base to the Carr Government and the Sussex Street machine. That shift to a balance of power is a plus for democracy. Local Government in Australia has been too accommodating to state governments besotted with development at any price at the expense of the environment and resident's quality of life.

And Clover Moore might just regulate the property developers more than the rightwing ALP. The politics of development are going to get a lot tougher.

Plus she has an some interesting ideas about shaping a global city: turn it into a series of villages that would be based on the inner city suburbs with their own character and creative cultures.

It is a recognition that people identify with places. They also desire to protect the historical characteristics of each of these "villages."

It is an interesting response to globalization is it not? A different vision to that of the Carr ALP, which wants to turn Sydney into a regional financial hub a la Hong Kong. A financial hub controlled by a small political group.

It shows just how far local councils haved move away from rates, roads and rubbish. Maybe the Commonwealth will support local councils (fund them) to enable them to resist the power of state governments.

Update
I'm not convinced that forced amalgamations of local councils---as happened with Sydney and South Sydney---delivers all the cost benefits from efficiency gains that the bean counters and neo-liberals in state governments say. The efficiency bonus was only marginal under the merger mania in South Australia or Victoria according to Brian Dollery writing in today's Australian Financial Review (subscription required, p. 63). Merging into larger councils is not the panacea fro cash-strapped councils.

What is happening is that state governments are loading extra burdens and responsibilities onto local government without increasing their resources. Hence many face a financial crisis, since their only source of revenue is property rates.

We need to nurture our local councils because they are unrecognized in our constitution. They come under the legislative wing of our state governments who are often unwilling to recognize the autonomy of local government. After all, the forced amalgmation of South Sydney and Sydney Councils was undertaken by the Carr Government to assist Labor win control of the Town Hall through bringing more voters in. The state Government want a tame council that will go along with rubber-stamping development.

If we want independent local councils, then we need to change their source of income. They are too constrained by their only source of revenue being property rates.

Update
Clover Moore has done it. She wins. what was once taken away from her in 1987 by the then Unsworth Labor Government. The Labor Party machine in Sussex Street has been rolled back. Two cheers for local democracy.

It highlights the popular disenchantment with the Carr Government, its lack of momentum, its inability to fix infrastructure problems plus health and transport and obssession with power.

Did you see how well the Greens did? Doubled their representation. The ALP polled badly in the CBD and the inner-western suburbs. Maybe it will encourage the ALP to accept the need for green modernization instead of following the knee-jerk Labor Right strategy of attack attack attack whilst harvesting political donations from big property developers.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:48 AM | | Comments (13) | TrackBacks (1)
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Comments

If Clover wins she should give up her job as a State MP.

It is impossible for one person to do both these jobs and not suffer from constant and crippling conflicts of interest and time constraints.

Note for example how Clover Moore has been absent from Parliament's question time all last week -- and she hasn't even been elected Lord Mayor yet.

The "village" idea is nice, but it's not much to hang a Lord Mayoralty on. Sydney City is not just another residential Council area -- the Lord Mayor needs to consider the future of the city as a whole as well the rights and convenience of the 5,000 or so people who live in theheart of the CBD.

All that said, I suspect Clover will win on the preferences of the Greens and Liberals (an odd combination, but everyone is putting Labor last I think).

Karen,
I agree with you that you cannot do the two jobs at once.

From where I sit in Adelaide I cannot see how a rightwing ALP has the future of Sydney at its heart, except more of the same old style development.

It does seem to me that a worthwhile experiment is to break the stanglehold the state governments have over our city councils.

In Adealide the state governments continually override local governemts who express the wishes of local residents and impose unwanted development

Such developments are subsidised by granting/giving public space to the big develpers. So we have lots of shonky private development and fewer and fewer public spaces.

Making local government more powerful so that it can stand up to state goverenment strikes me as a good move.

Or we could abolish state governments altogether.

To make that work, we'd need larger, stronger local councils and we'd need to give councils limited control over aspects of education and health care.

Simply abolishing state governments and giving their power to Canberra will result in a government that is even more out of touch with ordinary voters, and even more likely to spend money in large capital cities and ignore smaller regional centres.

If local councils controlled, for example, teacher numbers in their area, families could get the number of classroom teachers for their children that they were willing to pay for, and not according to some distant and arbitrary formula. The same with spending on community health and so on. Large public hospitals, school curriculum matters and so on, would remain with the Federal Government, to achieve a degree of standardisation that would benefit everyone.

Hmm, I'm ranting a little. It seems like a good idea, is all.

Karen,
I'm an old style federalist so I support all those checks and balances on power. Three tiered government is part of the checks and balances.

More power needs to be given to given to local councils since they are connected to the grass roots and to our democratic aspirations.

However, local government needs to throw off their old style Tammany Hall-style machinations.

Mm, the Tammany Hall aspect of local government comes more from its control over rezoning (and hence the flow of donations from realtors), and the fact that it it takes a relatively small amount of money to run for Council, and its easier for a big donor to essentially "buy" a position by paying for a campaign.

At a State and Federal level, while companies donate large sums their overall impact on decision-making is small. People make a great deal of five figure donations by say, Meriton to the ALP, and ignore the multiple six figure donations from unions. Developer adn pub owner donations account for around 5% of ALP fundraising and with the restrictions on building heights and the the number of pokies in clubs, they don't seem to get much for their cash.

At a local level, a single realtor can hand over say $10,000 and finance an entire campaign. Realistically, neither Labor nor Liberal Councillors are in constant contact with their head offices, nor do they receive regular instructions from anyone other than their immediate colleaues on how to vote on anything. It would be corrupt conduct if an ALP or Liberal official rang a Councillor and demanded they vote a certain way on a local government issue, and all concerned would be hauled before ICAC quick smart. Rightly so.

Getting back to the original topic, I have to say I never saw Lord Mayor Sartor agreeing with Bob carr on anything very much. I appreciate he is now a State Minister, so he toes the line and they all get on well etc etc, but when he was mayor he was a thorn in Carr's side, not an ally. Before Sartor, wasn't the Lord Mayor that Binghamton man? A Liberal but an embarrassment to the Fahey Government who wanted nothing to do with him. And I doubt Kathryn Greiner was ever especially close to the Peter Collins Opposition. Chikarovski's mob supported her with those false allegations of sexual harrassment by Sartor, dropped under parliamentary privilege late one night. And with friends like that, Greiner no doubt wondered why she needed enemies.

Those stupid and defamatory claims did more to earn sympathy votes for Sartor than anything he ever did himself.

So: I think the Sydney Town Hall is entirely independent of, and usually opposed to, Macquarie Street. Whatever party is in power.

By the way, if you live in Bligh and want to complain about the Sydney City Council, who will take up your case come next week? Will Clover investigate herself? Will she find she's doing a bad job and make public criticisms of her own actions? Perhaps introduce legislation to reduce her own powers? I wonder ..

Karen
Alas I live in Adelaide.So I'm just an intersted spectator.

I agree with your argument about financing and corruption.

I've seen a council ticket being bankrolled by a developer in order to get control of a local council--eg. Victor Habour where development is booming.

Others will criticize Clover---presumbly her "friends" in state Parliament and the media.

It seems that you concur with my argument? That it is a good thing to strengthen local government vi-a-vis state government? Is that so?

Yes indeed.

I also think if local government had more pwoers, it would attract more people interested in standing, which would dilute the influence of single donors. If higher-quality people put themselves forward for council elections, you'd get:

1. A higher proportion of candidates who had the honour not to be paid-up lackeys of realtors; and
2. A wider network of financing, including from major political parties like Liberal, labor, greens, Democrats and so on -- candidates who are less dependant on the real estate agency down the road.

So we agree on that at least :)

We also agree Cover is going to win. I just don't think it's good for Sydney to have a Lord Mayor with the conflict of interest inherent in also being a State MP. She should resign one or the other and devote herself full-time to a single job.

Karen,
you forgot.
wW also agree on Clover Moore needing to give up her state parliament job if she wins the Sydney mayor election today.

True. :)

There is no need to give local government more power. They are yet to demonstrate they can handle this with responsibility, and given the lack of time most Australians have to monitor the performance of federal and state governments, an expanded local government (dealing in issues that don't really concern many people) will be a recipe for more of the same.

If the city councils get out of control, it is vital that the States can fold them up and put them into administration. The last thing we need, at a time when federal and state governments are sucking record amounts of money from private individuals, is to burden people with yet more government.

The Sydney Council seems be financially affluent and financially in the red. It continually runs budget surpluses.

The idea is to prevent state governmetns taking them over, making them compliant, and overriding local residents wishes about better kinds of development.

A more democratic and politically independent council would face tougher planning rules and increased scrutiny. Is that not a good thing?

Overriding local residents' wishes is precisely what we should be doing in development. Why should organised NIMBYs (concerned as they are with land prices and rents) override the service needs of the mass of the population who happen to live elsewhere?

The best way to engage in development is through the sound macro-vision of state politicians (who see the service needs of all constituents as vital) complemented by the profit motive of developers. NIMBYs discourage growth and development, and will harm the living standards of others, as developers will simply pack up and leave if their time (which is money), is being wasted.

Odd local government results across NSW, though you're right about inner Sydney.

Thirty years ago, the inner suburbs were solid Labor Right working class areas. Then in the 80's and onwards there was an influx of younger people and students attracted by the cheap rentals and easy access to Sydney and NSW Universities. These newer residents were more left than the old-style Labor machine, and were instrumental in electing Peter Baldwin and other Labor left-wingers and turfing out the old corrupt Labor right-wingers.

Time passed and these student households disappeared, replaced by the socially left-wing and financially moderate upper-middle class. This group has no identification with Labor, and has trended toward Green and Democrat canddiates instead. They are also fierce about preserving the "village" nature of their suburbs, and oppose development, aircraft noise and any increase in density (I don't blame them).

The election of Clover Moore is the end result of this thirty-year trend to the left of Labor.

That's not to say the results aren't a rejection of the amalgamation strategy so foolishly pursued by the State -- just that Clover's election isn't the shock it's made out to be. Clover Moore better represents the thinking and wishes of the inner-Sydney community than a Labor candidate ever could.

Elsewhere in the State, Green canddiates continued to improve in coastal councils as more and more retirees from Sydney settle in former Country Party towns like Port Macquarie, Tweed Heads and Bega. This is good news -- the Nats who run these councils have had no competition or scrutiny for years. About time they had to justify their policies.

In western Sydney, Labor actually did better than the last election, holding on to Fairfield and Bankstown Councils and winning Penrith (I think), Campbelltown and Parramatta back from independents. Also Cessnock in the Hunter.

So, what does this show? It shows Labor's weakening hold on the inner city is almost completely gone and there'll be a tough fight for State Labor MP's to hang on to the four inner city seats at the next election, against Green candidates.

It shows the Labor heartland still has no confidence in either the Greens or the NSW Libs to represent them (bad news for John Howard who holds some seats there).

And it shows that country NSW is becoming more competitive for all parties, instead of a solid Coalition stronghold. I doubt the Greens can win anything State or Federally there, but they can certainly play kingmaker with preferences.