Congratulations to the ratepayers of Rockdale, the southern Sydney suburb on the shores of Botany Bay: you have just become the proud owners of a soon-to-be-built $5 million car park to be constructed on the sand dunes along the majestic bayside.

The chief beneficiaries will be two upmarket eateries — the Le Sands and Botany Bay Seafood Restaurants.

Le Sands millionaire owner, Peter Antonopoulos, was in the public gallery two nights ago when Rockdale City councillors voted 10-3 to give the car park tender to Ford Civil Contracting Pty Ltd.

The only Labor councillor to abstain from the vote was newly-elected Shane O’Brien.

He became the “rat in the ranks” when he stood up and declared a significant non-pecuniary interest under the councillors’ code of conduct. He said he couldn’t take part in the vote because he had attended ALP fund-raisers at Le Sands and Botany Bay Seafood Restaurants and then walked out of the chamber.

But Labor mayor Bill Saravinovski, who hosted a family christening celebration at Le Sands in September, led the other ALP councillors and four Liberals in approving the tender.

The vote represented a big victory for the council’s paid consultancy which is headed by “Leaping” Leo McLeay, the former federal MP for Watson and a veteran fixer for the right-wing ALP machine.

The green light for the controversial development was given by NSW Lands Minister Tony Kelly even though it represents an ugly intrusion on the beachfront of Botany Bay and is opposed by a majority of local residents as well as businesses in the Chamber of Commerce.

Three councillors who opposed the project — Lesa de Leau (Greens), Liz Barlow and James Macdonald (Independents) — moved a recision motion which will be debated at an extraordinary council meeting which Saravinovski, with uncommon urgency, has called for Monday night.

Opponents of the 100-vehicle car park say that it is not only an environmental eyesore but it offers no future jobs and little, if any, community benefit.

It does incalculable damage to the already tarnished ALP brand in the area where Labor currently holds a swag of seats — Rockdale (Frank Sartor), Kogarah (Cherie Burton), Oatley (Kevin Greene) and Miranda (Barry Collier).

Why the Liberals have decided to support the Labor proposal is anybody’s guess. If Liberal Leader Barry O’Farrell wants to take any of these marginal seats at the 2011 state election, he should be instructing his councillors to get out of Labor’s bed. Who knows what they will catch if they stay there.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey