Clover Moore is a remarkable woman. She’s been lord mayor of Sydney for the past seven years and a Sydney MP since 1988. And she’s done it on her own, after entering community politics in 1980 to get more parks in Redfern.
Developers hate her and so do the shock jocks. But Moore is powerful and determined, and her public adores her. Gay rights advocate, small bar champion, bangle wearer and laneway lover, the spiky-haired activist has fought 11 elections since 1982 and won them all. No.12, for a third term as mayor, is due next year and she’s odds-on to win again. Last time she got more votes than the other four candidates combined.
Over the years, Moore has had an extraordinary effect on life in the city. “Had I not held the balance of power in state parliament,” she told The Power Index, “Finger Wharf wouldn’t have been saved, Sydney Showgrounds would be covered in housing, gays and lesbians would still be vilified, same-s-x couples wouldn’t be able to adopt, there would have been no Police Royal Commission, and there would be no anti-corruption legislation.”
One former NSW premier, Kristina Keneally — and Clover has seen off six off them — observes ruefully: “The lord mayor has too much power relative to her geographic jurisdiction. She controls the economic destiny of Sydney. No one body or agency is completely responsible for CBD development, so Clover fills the vacuum. She stops things. She drags processes out, and wears developers down, until they walk away.”
Another former premier, Morris Iemma, is much more positive: “I liked her a lot. I always found her really good and very constructive. She gave council money and sites to build affordable housing. She advanced the debate started about civic space and she will certainly have an effect on the shape of Barangaroo. She has to be consulted in transport: whether it’s light rail, heavy rail or underground. And she has a high profile with foreign leaders and investors, because Sydney is now a global city.”
Developers bitch about Clover, but no one is willing to take her on. They’re all on borrowed money, so the clock is ticking, and they’re scared of her power.
Or all except one: Meriton’s Harry Triguboff is a multibillionaire, who never borrows a cent and is happy to do battle with anyone. Yet even he is driven mad by Moore. He complained constantly about her to premier Kristina Keneally, and even wrote to (then) prime minister Kevin Rudd demanding an inquiry.
But Sydney’s lord mayor is even less popular with shock jock Alan Jones, who has savaged Moore for her “disgraceful” $70 million bike lanes, claiming she never consulted anyone and that she is a dope who “speaks for nobody”.
“I went on his program last year, and he was incredibly rude to me, incredibly bullying and incredibly ranting,” said Moore, who was asked by Jones, first up, how much of the city she intended to destroy, before being told she didn’t have a clue what she was talking about.
But such abuse — and she cops criticism from all sides, including The Sydney Morning Herald and The Daily Telegraph — doesn’t stop Moore doing what she thinks is right. “I’m very sensitive, but I’m very strong,” she said. “Of course I don’t like being attacked. The misrepresentation and personal vilification is totally unacceptable. But if you worried about Alan Jones and the tabloids, you wouldn’t get on and do what you have to do.”