Sacking the Liverpool City Council

The
New South Wales State Government sacked Liverpool City Council last
week over its handling of the controversial $800 million Oasis
development.

The Oasis project, however, is just one sorry
landmark in the uniformally depressing vistas offered by local
government politics in Sydney’s southwest.

Indeed, it can
come as no surprise that many have sought to escape this desolate
environment – like that aspirational former local mayor who is now
leading the federal ALP into broad and sunny uplands, Mark Latham.

Local
media won’t give you all the sad and sorry details of the political
landscape of Liverpool – there’s too much council advertising riding on
it – but Crikey can.

The long suffering locals of the East
Liverpool Progress Association produced an excellent history and guide
to the Liverpool City Council that they presented to the inquiry that
lead to the council’s sacking. That’s reproduced below – but here’s a
brief introduction.

“Good riddance” the locals tell us, is
the short and immediate response of most citizens to the sacking of the
Liverpool City Council.

However, wise heads amongst them
warn that their fellow residents, in their delight, must not forget
about how the Oasis problem came about and what it was simply
symptomatic of.

Too many of the people in power in
Liverpool were there because of Labor branch stacking – or the strange
dynastic traditions that pass power to favoured sons in a supposedly
meritocratic party.

Ten years ago, in March 1994, George
Paciullo executed a branch stack of 500 new members in a single visit
to ALP head office. He was later reported in the local press stating
branch stacking was “good for democracy”.

And thus the seeds of the Oasis saga were sown.

As
these people – and the councilors they supported – took power, the
Oasis project was presented as public interest. It certainly couldn’t
attract much in the way of private interest.

The matter was
controversial, but further branch stacking (some with decidedly ethnic
flavours) and dynastic processes that veered dangerously close to
eugenics continued to produce the required outcomes – along, of course,
with the help of $16 million of ratepayer funds.

That and a
few other tricks – things like special council meetings convened
without public notice, Oasis matters addressed in normal Council
meetings via “in confidence” sessions closed to the public; ruthless
denial of public participation in the Oasis approval processes whilst
using sporting and media entities to boost its public image and the
like.

The Oasis debacle was the result of corrupted machine
politics that let incompetent and feeble people take office, government
ignore its responsibility to be transparent and open to account, a
complaisant local media that failed in its role to be free and inform
and from the disillusionment of a citizenry that felt powerless to
exercise its rights.

Here’s hoping the people of Liverpool
bear these factors in mind as they look to the future. They’ll find all
the reminders they need here: East Liverpool Progress Association’s submission to the inquiry

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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