Meet the new tzar of Wollongong, Dr Col Gellatly, former director-general of the NSW Premier’s Department, and his tzarina, Dr Gabrielle Kibble, former director-general of the NSW Planning Department.
They have been appointed as administrators by Premier Morris Iemma to reorganize the city of Wollongong and the harbour facilities at neighbouring Port Kembla. The third member of the ruling team is former public servant Robert McGregor.
To ensure that there is no impediment or busy-body interference to the government’s plans for “The Gong”, Iemma has sacked Wollongong City Council.
For the next four years, Gellatly, who served the Carr and Iemma Governments until after the March 2007 election, and Kibble, the daughter of the late Sir John Kerr and planning boss during Carr’s record-breaking reign, and McGregor will have unrestrained power to rule the city.
Since leaving the Premier’s Department in May last year, Gellatly has been re-employed on a consultancy basis as chairman of the so-called Rural and Regional Task Force, a body which came into existence as part of a deal to install the pro-Labor Independent, Northern Tablelands MP Richard Torbay, in the Speaker’s job on the plum salary of $231,605 a year.
Mindful of the terrible mess that has befallen Premier John Brumby with his plans for Port Melbourne, Iemma has installed Gellatly and Kibble, two of the government’s toughest war horses, to blitz any local opposition and relocate strategic port facilities from Sydney Harbour and Port Botany to Port Kembla.
Just to make certain the council became cactus, Iemma gave a press conference last Sunday saying that even if ICAC Commissioner Jerrold Cripps QC didn’t recommend the council’s sacking, he was ready to do it anyway.
In the event the downy old Cripps pulled the pin on the council on Tuesday even though only four of the seven ALP councillors were adversely mentioned during evidence — Frank Gigliotti, Zeki Esen, Kiril Jonovski and Val Zanotto – and Iemma moved swiftly to install his handpicked Wollongong gauleiters.
Had the council not been sacked, Wollongong’s politically hardened electorate would have hammered the Labor Party at the local government elections in September and the city would have passed from Labor control into the hands of Independents and Greens.
That was a scenario which the Iemma Government couldn’t tolerate. Having lost any moral right to continue to control the city at local level, Labor will now rule it from Sydney, via its three unelected and virtually unaccountable administrators.
As for Kibble, since leaving the Planning Department, she has picked up a juicy government emolument as the administrator of the sacked Liverpool Council in south-west Sydney. By an extraordinary coincidence her Wollongong appointment was announced by Local Government Minister Paul Lynch who just happens to be MP for Liverpool and a former Liverpool councillor (though not when it was sacked).
During its 13 years in office, the Labor Government has sacked a dozen councils in NSW with seven of them still in administration: Warringah on Sydney’s northern beaches, Liverpool (administered by the aforementioned Kibble), Port Macquarie, Tweed, Walgett, Broken Hill and now Wollongong.
Without a whiff of irony, the councils have gone down the gurgler because of findings of incompetence and/or corruption. Isn’t it remarkable that this all-pervasive climate has never thrown its dark shadow over the State Government itself?