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Sending a message to Macquarie Street

By Richard Stanton - posted Thursday, 18 September 2008


Contrary to popular belief voters at the New South Wales local government elections last Saturday did not take out their frustrations on Labor candidates but they demonstrated their strong disapproval of more disturbing state actions.

In all but a handful of Sydney city electorates early counting showed voters delineated between local and state matters and voted for the candidates they believed would best represent them.

There were a few inconsistencies, some Liberal and National party candidates branding themselves Independent; Labor party candidates not branding themselves at all; and Independents doing preference deals then backing out at the death.

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An increase in informal and “donkey” votes demonstrated an irritation with the changes to the voting process this election.

But the biggest message was delivered from two urban Sydney electorates coming back into the competition after four years on the “bench”.

Two more different electorates are unimaginable, however industrial working-class Liverpool and upper-class beachfront Warringah returned candidates who were sacked four years ago amid allegations of mismanagement and corruption. Voters in Liverpool and Warringah stuck it to the state government big time with the message that sacking an elected council is not on.

The state government has sacked more councils in the past few years than Nathan Rees has sacked ministers in his first week as premier, an unenviable record.

Since 2004 68 councils have been investigated: almost 45 per cent of active democratically elected representative local government ranging across the state and including large urbans - Hornsby, Campbelltown, Manly, Marrickville and Rockdale, through smaller regionals, Jerilderie, Narromine, Harden and Boorowa.

This resulted in ten public inquiries into Liverpool, Warringah, Rylstone, Tweed, Walgett, Brewarrina, Broken Hill, Port Macquarie-Hastings, Brewarrina, and Shell Harbour.

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After the public inquires it sacked Tweed, Broken Hill, Port Macquarie-Hastings, Shell Harbour and Wollongong.

Wollongong was dismissed as a result of an ICAC inquiry, while the others were the result of public inquiries performed under Section 740 of the Local Government Act.

So what does it take for a council to get sacked? How much mischief does it need to get up to before the axe falls and why have citizens in Liverpool and Warringah revealed their resentment of the process?

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About the Author

Richard Stanton is a political communication writer and media critic. His most recent book is Do What They Like: The Media In The Australian Election Campaign 2010.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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