Do you double your integrity with a bet each way?
The big story this week was independent MP Clover Moore (Member for
Bligh) announcing that she plans to run for Lord Mayor of Sydney. In
Sydney politics, she’s one of those personality politicians where it’s
enough to call her by her first name and people know who you’re talking
about. The ALP call her the “Wicked Witch”, and have expended quite a
bit of cash and no end of community polls over the years in futile
efforts to blast her out of Bligh.

Somebody was ready and waiting for the announcement because as soon as
she indicated that she wants to remain an MP if she wins the Lord
Mayoralty, attention was brought to the submission she made to an ICAC
inquiry into secondary employment for MPs last year, which she put up
on her website. In her submission, she highlighted the following:

“I strongly believe that being a Member of Parliament is a full-time
job. The demands of the job require the full commitment of the Member’s
time, energy, effort and intellect. I do not believe Members can do the
job properly if their time and energy is diverted into other
employment.

I also believe that the citizens of NSW expect their Members to be
full-time Members. Most citizens would consider that NSW Members are
adequately remunerated and would question whether they are justified in
seeking additional income.”

All the evening news bulletins and press stories picked up on Clover’s
ICAC submission – giving her a bad first day, making her look like just
any “say one thing, do the other” politician, which of course is the
antithesis of her carefully maintained image as an “integrity
independent”.

Despite the hiccup, Clover’s announcement makes her an obvious
front-runner for the Lord Mayoralty alongside Michael Lee. She has a
long association with local government. In fact, one of the evening
news programs showed her when she was one of the independent
councillors when the Unsworth Government sacked the Sydney City Council
in 1987. (I hadn’t seen hair that big since Flock of Seagulls were in
the charts.) But she hasn’t been in local government for 17 years. Yet
looking at the list of the 14 candidates for Lord Mayor, very few of
them look like people who will be directing preferences to Lee over
Clover.

All the fuss about Clover holding two jobs neglects to contemplate how
this helps Clover keep her current job – Member for Bligh. I had to
wait till nominations closed yesterday to have my suspicions confirmed
– and they were.

Clover’s running for Lord Mayor – which she may or may not win; but
she’s also running for Councillor on the new City of Sydney Council,
which she’d have to be a dead cert to pick up. There are nine
Councillors to be elected in a Citywide election, so you only need one
vote over 10 percent after the distribution of preferences to get
elected.

Clover has enough pockets of rusted on voters in the eastern and
southern portions of the city boundaries to get 30 percent easy. Antony
Green’s booth-by-booth analysis of last year’s Legislative Assembly
election results shows that Clover got 65 percent of the two party
preferred vote over the ALP candidate. She picked up over 70 percent of
the vote in booths in Paddington, Surry Hills and Darlinghurst. All of
these booths are in the new City of Sydney.

Her entry into the field makes it a Labor-Clover contest with everyone
else starving for the oxygen of publicity, which will hurt a number of
independent and progressive campaigns who might have thought they were
a chance to pick up a seat on the new council. I reckon she’d have to
be good odds to attract thirty percent of the vote across the city for
her team, which would be enough to get at least two of her team elected
on to the Council with her.

But why does Clover need to get on Council to keep her seat in
Parliament? Well, at this very moment, there’s a redistribution for the
NSW Legislative Assembly underway, and Bligh is the key to the
redistribution of up to seven Sydney seats immediately south of Sydney
Harbour. The redistribution has become necessary because too many seats
will be over the allowable population tolerance at the next election,
and one of the seats with the biggest projected population growth is
Port Jackson – the seat to the immediate west of Clover’s electorate of
Bligh.

As Clover told the redistribution committee in her submission:

“The significant demographic changes in the inner eastern zone make it
a inevitable that a fair and rational redistribution will have a
significant impact on Bligh…It is with regret that I acknowledge that
a fair and rational redistribution of the zone will result in areas
that I have represented being removed from Bligh.”

And big chunks of voters being put into the new seat of Bligh that have
never known Clover as their elected representative, which was probably
her larger regret. Until the City of Sydney local government elections
offered her a wonderful opportunity.

The submissions from the Coalition and Clover come up similar
conclusions – the population growth in Port Jackson and population
declines in Coogee, Maroubra and Vaucluse, means that the surplus
voters in Port Jackson are best accommodated in Bligh, with knock on
effects (Bligh voters into Vaucluse, Vaucluse voters into Coogee etc
etc). And we’re not talking about a small number of voters – we’re
talking about 13 to 15 thousand voters being shifted in the move from
Port Jackson to Bligh.

If this comes about, this would mean about 30 percent of the voters in
Bligh at the next election would be new, never having been represented
by Clover. Most of them are located in Pyrmont, Ultimo and Glebe –
which do not share the “community of interest” with the areas that have
long sustained Clover, such as Paddington and Darlinghurst.
Redevelopment of Pyrmont has seen a significant portion of the
population become much more transient than it was ten or fifteen years
ago, making it hard to campaign as an established independent identity.
Furthermore, Clover would lose some of her safest booths to the
neighbouring seat of Vaucluse.

The ALP have obviously treated the redistribution as their last ditch
effort to remove Clover: their submission suggests a total overhaul of
the seven electorates in question, and giving the name of Bligh to the
current seat of Vaucluse (which, for interstate readers, forms the
heart of the Federal seat of Wentworth, which Malcolm Turnbull and
Peter King are fighting over), and is the only Liberal seat south of
the Harbour held by the state Liberals until you get to the seat of
Miranda near the Royal National Park. The ALP want a Clover-Liberal
contest in a new seat of Bligh which is well eastwards of Clover’s
established base.

But the more likely outcome of the redistribution is the incorporation
of Pyrmont, Ultimo and some of Glebe into the new seat of Bligh. At the
last election for Port Jackson, the incumbent ALP candidate, Sandra
Nori, was under massive pressure from The Greens candidate because of
the mooted development of parkland in the heart of the electorate. But
some of Nori’s strongest booths where she picked up over 60 percent of
the two party preferred vote were in Pyrmont and Ultimo. Clover would
face an uphill battle in winning some of these booths if they were
transferred to Bligh, particularly as she would have to win them over
not having been their elected representative. Clover would face the
toughest contest ever to keep her state seat.

So, the City of Sydney election has been a godsend to Clover. And her
campaign theme of protecting Sydney’s foreshore is an issue which plays
very much to the Pyrmont portion of the electorate. Clover has also
recruited seasoned Pyrmont campaigners to her team, who in all
likelihood will get elected with her. So her election to the council,
definitely as Councillor, and possibly as Lord Mayor, will give Clover
a ratepayer funded position for the next three years to work on the
Pyrmont/Ultimo/Glebe voters, which will be critical to her retaining
the seat of Bligh at the next state election.

The ALP’s creation of the supersized City of Sydney has probably robbed
them of their only foreseeable chance to get the state seat of Bligh
from Clover, and will probably see the ALP lose the mayoralty and have
to deal with Clover and her independents as the powerbrokers on the new
City of Sydney. Good one, lads.

Boilermaker Bill can be contacted at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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