In “Clown Hall Part 2: Labor digs in for development” published in yesterday’s Crikey, your anonymous “Ashfield council insider” throws a lot of muck at a Labor candidate who is a principled, progressive and active trade unionist. Alex Lofts has no truck with property developers. His record as an environmental activist to help save NSW’s south-east forests speak for itself.

Alex Lofts recently helped organised opposition to a development application from Proud’s on Parramatta Road, which he believes threatens Summer Hill’s heritage. He spoke at council on this matter and at the Land and Environment Court hearings.

For Sunday’s meeting Summer Hill ALP invited the developer and a local urban planner to begin a community consultation process about the mill. I produced the “expensive” leaflet (it cost $480 to have 5000 printed). All our campaign funds are raised locally. We take no money from NSW Labor for this campaign and no money from any developers.

There was one heckler trying to make a scurrilous connection, who I assume wrote the yesterday’s libelous drivel.

We put on an ALP meeting to initiate community consultation. I spoke at the meeting emphasising we have no connection with the developer. We didn’t hide it was an ALP meeting (well spotted those ALP posters!). I had not met Michael Easson until the meeting on Sunday.

Anyone who knows anything about the inner-Sydney ALP would know that Summer Hill branch is one of the most leftwing branches in NSW. (I am branch secretary.) Look at the previous article I have written on Crikey on the ALP. Look at my own website. Though this is my political opinion alone and not that of the branch, you might get a bit of an idea about the general tenor of our branch’s politics given that they will have me as branch secretary.

To say that Rae Jones was there to praise the developer is a sick joke. Anyone who knows Rae will know he is a principled, pro-community activist. He helped establish SHAG (Summer Hill Action Group), which defeated a developer’s attempt to build a 10-storey high rise in Summer Hill. His actions and those of SHAG helped establish Summer Hill as it now is – a good community with minimal developer impact.

Rae spoke as a warning to the developer. You can’t mess with Summer Hill. If Michael Easson and EG Funds propose a development at odds with the community we will fight it tooth and claw.

Summer Hill ALP does not support the development, nor do we oppose it. We haven’t seen what is on offer yet, but if EG Funds carries on as they are suggesting, it may not be a bad outcome. We may get a Greenway from the harbour to Cooks River and we may get the light rail extended. But we are not going to be suckered in by a developer’s sweet words at the beginning of a process.

We are rightly wary and sceptical about developers. Especially former ALP “heavies” who have moved to the big end of town. That is why we must organise the community.

Summer Hill ALP sees it as our job to galvanise the community to make sure that the developer doesn’t get a free run in what will be a very important development. If the community is not organised to put its views forward, we will be run roughshod over. If the development is in keeping with what the community wants, we will welcome it. If it is contrary to what is good for the community, we will fight it tooth and claw. Summer Hill ALP has a track record on fighting bad development and bad developers.

We have zero support from the developer in the local election. To infer otherwise is just rubbish. If the “Ashfield insider” has knowledge to the contrary, let him or her come forward and have the courage to do it under your own name.

Peter Fray

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