Wollongong: Residents call for council elections

Issue 

Nearly 200 people filled Wollongong's Town Hall on March 11 to demand a Royal Commission into council corruption and for the people of Wollongong to be able to exercise their democratic right to take part in the NSW local government elections, scheduled for September.

The meeting, organised by Wollongong Against Corruption (WAC), was called in response to Labor Premier Morris Iemma's sacking of Wollongong City Council for "systemic corruption" on March 4, and the appointment of administrators for four years. The council was rocked by corruption allegations involving four Labor Party councillors and ALP member Joe Scimone (all five have been since been expelled from the party).

"The people of Wollongong are going to fight. We are not going to let the Iemma government shut us down politically", said Paul Matters, WAC spokesperson.

A March 8 Sydney Morning Herald article quoted Andy Gillespie, branch secretary for the Australian Workers Union, as commenting: "If they were to go to a vote, the people of Wollongong would exact such a price on the ALP that it would be decimated."

Matters spoke of an endemic problem within the Labor Party, citing the findings by the Independent Commission Against Corruption as evidence that, "to get something developed you have to pay into the ALP machine". He continued, "the Labor Party have failed this region utterly, and the ICAC inquiry has only uncovered the tip of a massive iceberg".

WAC has pledged to hold ongoing meetings and actions to fight for an election for the people of Wollongong. Other groups supporting the call for elections include the Greens, the Socialist Alliance and the South Coast Labour Council. Matters concluded, "We're going to give Morris Iemma a lesson in what this community can do when it stands together and demands its rights".

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