Premier Mike Baird’s apology to the people of NSW, delivered after the resignation of two Newcastle Liberal MPs, is about as sincere as Treasurer Joe Hockey’s mea culpa to the poor.
Baird’s statement that the Liberal Party would not contest the byelections caused by the resignations — “we strongly believe we have forfeited our right to represent those electorates” — is also a political ploy. The only reason the Liberals are not standing is to avoid the humiliating loss they knew was coming.
The byelections in the state seats of Newcastle and Charlestown are the result of Liberal MPs Andrew Cornwall and Tim Owens appearing before the Independent Commission Against Corruption where they admitted to accepting illegal donations from a property developer.
The property developer who gave them each $10,000 in a cash donation was Jeff McCloy, who until his resignation on August 17 was the Lord Mayor of Newcastle. This will also mean a byelection for the lord mayor’s position.
What the premier really thinks about electoral rights is demonstrated by his support for their reduction at Sydney City Council.
Since its inception in 1842, the council has been sacked by the government of the day on four occasions. The last time was in 1987 when the Labor government rid itself of elected community independents that included two communists, Jack Mundey and Brian McGahen.
But the preferred government methods are boundary rigging and altering the franchise in order to establish majority control. The ALP did this in the 1950s and early 1960s. The Liberal government used the same methods from the mid 1960s to the mid 1970s. The Neville Wran Labor government followed suit – and on it goes.
The latest attempt at manipulation began on August 14 in the NSW upper house when Shooters and Fishers Party MP Robert Borsak introduced a bill that would give thousands of business owners exceptional voting rights in the council elections. The Baird Coalition government is supporting the bill.
The directly elected lord mayor is Clover Moore. Her Clover Moore Independent Team won four of the nine councillor positions at the last election in September 2012. When she was a state MP, Moore was a supporter of stronger gun controls and is an opponent of hunting in national parks.
According to Borsak, that nothing to do with the introduction of the bill. He said the Shooters and Fishers are not a single-issue party, “we are a party that supports free enterprise and capitalism and a few other things like that.”
When he introduced the bill, Borsak thanked radio shock jock Alan Jones, “without his assistance, I doubt the government would have been persuaded to support” the bill.
At the last census in 2011 there were almost 170,000 residents in the Sydney local government area. The number of businesses in the City of Sydney that would be given two votes if the bill is passed is a point of contention. Borsak claims there are more than 80,000, while ABS figures suggest 60,000.
Whatever the correct figure might be, the intent of the bill is to give businesses represented by the Liberal party control over policy making. The rationale is that doing business in the city takes precedence over the quality of life of those living in it.
Profits will always come before people for this premier and his party.