With a cast of characters including a policeman turned s-xual libertarian, a s-x-addict turned hardcore Christian televangelist, an openly gay Liberal who supports same s-x marriage, and a job-juggling Independent MP, last night’s meet the candidates for Sydney event was never going to be dull.
This progressive inner-city seat would be a gimme for The Greens on March 26 were it not for the one-woman political machine that is Clover Moore.
Moore — she of the silver chokers and spiky, jet-black hair — has held the seat as an Independent MP for 23 years. During the past seven years she has combined her parliamentary duties with a high-profile role as Sydney Lord Mayor.
The difficult task of balancing both jobs has seen her labelled a “part time” MP by her opponents. Since the 2007 election, Moore has only shown up to parliament every seven out of 10 sitting days.
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Moore hit back at such criticisms last night, saying she had driven significant legislative change during her time in office. She said some of her most important achievements were: outlawing vilification against gays and lesbians, creating the Kings Cross injecting centre, and legalising adoption for homos-xual couples.
She received a loud cheer from the crowd when she said she had submitted 470 written questions during the last parliamentary term — almost as many as all the Labor MPs put together.
If Moore is given the boot at the election, it won’t be because she is over-employed. Put it down to her role in the universally-derided Barangaroo development at Sydney Harbour.
Barangaroo, to many, has been the ultimate metaphor for NSW Labor’s time in office. Locals are outraged that the developer, Lend Lease, was allowed to tamper with the original award-winning design by adding a high-rise hotel. And last week, as one of his final acts as Planning Minister, Tony Kelly made the $6 billion project exempt from planning laws on contamination.
Moore resigned from the Barangaroo Delivery Authority in September, saying the public had been “railroaded”. She is now calling for an inquiry into the project.
Liberal candidate Adrian Bartels, a mortgage consultant with the voice and looks of a commercial newsreader, said this wasn’t good enough.
“As well as contamination on the site, I would say the Lord Mayor’s position on the site is contaminated as well,” he said. “She was on the board of Barangaroo when a lot of these things were going through. She was all for Barangaroo until it became politically contentious and then backed away from it at a million miles an hour.”
Even Labor’s Sacha Blumen got in on the act. He said he doesn’t agree with the inclusion of the hotel or the bulkiness of the design.
“I think the state government could have better explained their planning decisions,” he said. “I don’t think they have nearly been transparent enough.”
But with a Labocalypse looming at the election, it was a tough gig for the energy policy expert.
He offered many innovative ideas: give communities the right to appeal state planning decisions, allow councils to reject development applications by pubs and clubs because of their cumulative effect on local areas. Unfortunately, they were floating in space, free of any connection to official Labor policy.
And his argument, however accurate, that inner-city commuters have far better public transport options than those in the suburbs received a testy response from the crowd.
As for Bartels, the boy obviously has balls. Not only is the Liberal candidate trying to unseat a popular left-leaning local member, last week he marched in the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in a tight blue Liberal Party T-shirt. That’s about as gutsy as showing up at a Tea Party rally waving an “I love Obama” placard.
But he had a significant advantage last night: as the Coalition is expected to score a crushing victory, he alone could point to promises that are likely to become law, such as more money for basic literacy and numeracy teaching.
But he went too far by claiming the Liberals have committed to building a light rail from the city to the eastern suburbs. In fact, the Libs have only promised an inquiry into the feasibility of such a project when they win office.
The Greens’ De Brierley Newton won cheers for her calls to strip funding from elite public schools, invest in renewable energy and restore councils’ power over planning decisions. But her proposal for shared roads where cyclists and pedestrians commute in harmony with cars travelling at 10km an hour raised some eyebrows.
There were some colourful cameos late in the piece. Peter Madden, a former s-x addict, is running as a Christian Democrat. He says the Mardi Gras parade is a gay recruitment project and blamed the homos-xual community for the fact half of all children in his local area are growing up in fatherless homes.
Former police detective and corruption investigator Andrew Patterson, running for the S-x Party, asked the audience to vote for him if they support drug decriminalisation and the right to access p-rnography.
Unless Clover Moore goes under a bus — or a bicycle (fixed-gear of course) — in the next fortnight, you’d be a risk taker to bet on her losing office.