In front of a packed public gallery, Labor sided with the Liberals to award the Inner West Council mayorship and deputy mayorship to themselves on September 21.
Labor’s Darcy Byrne received the support of two Liberals and conservative independent Victor Macri for mayor, with Liberal councillor Julie Passas elected as deputy.
Byrne and Passas narrowly defeated anti-WestConnex independent Pauline Lockie and the Greens’ Colin Hesse, who stood for mayor and deputy, respectively, in an 8—7 vote.
Rumours of this deal had been circulating since the council election results were known. The result elicited calls of “sell-out”, but also loud applause from Labor and Liberal supporters who were present.
The three former councils of Ashfield, Marrickville and Leichhardt had been forcibly amalgamated in May 2016, postponing local government elections until September 9.
The 6% swing against the Liberals across the inner west went largely to independent candidates and Labor, although the Greens’ vote rose in some wards.
Ironically, Byrne told the meeting that “democracy” had returned to the inner west and that he would “lead a council which is both progressive and effective”.
The rotten nature of this deal was sharply highlighted by the debate over an urgency motion put forward by the Greens’ Tom Kiat, who moved that council campaign for a Yes vote in the federal postal survey on equal marriage.
Passas, an unashamed homophobe, declared she would not support the motion and that the issue had “nothing” to do with council. She went as far as to assert that those pushing the Yes vote were behaving like Nazis, eliciting cries of “shame” from the gallery.
The Greens confirmed that they had made several offers to Labor to form a progressive council, including to support Byrne as mayor for two of the three years of the council’s term while serving as deputy, in exchange for the Greens taking the mayoralty in the third year.
Susan Price, who stood as a Socialist Alliance candidate in the recent Inner West Council election, told Green Left Weekly that people are fed up with Labor’s double standards.
“It is a question of principle. Labor cannot support the elevation of the Liberals, the party driving the multi-billion dollar tollway scam, the privatisation of the inner west buses and the privatisation of the Sydenham to Bankstown rail line on the one hand and, on the other, say it opposes all those things,” she said.
“Byrne has committed the council to take action against unfiltered smoke stacks in the inner west, but this is not enough. Labor must actively assist the campaign to stop the whole project.”
Council decided to call a public meeting to examine its submission to the environmental impact statement for WestConnex Stage 3 and to call on the state government to extend the submission period.
[Pip Hinman stood as a Socialist Alliance candidate in the Stanmore ward of the Inner West Council.]