A council's job is rates, rubbish and roads. As soon as a council loses sight of this, things start to go wrong.
I've refrained from commenting on the Marrickville Council boycott until now because it wasn't really a state issue, even though it sort-of became during the election.
Now that Barry O'Farrell has sent a letter to the council, I think the issue is fair-game.
O'Farrell wrote to the council recently saying that if the boycott was not dropped within 28 days, he would use his power under the Local Government Act to sack the Council.
News quoted O'Farrell on radio saying "We're happy to take whatever action is required to get Marrickville Council back focused on the needs of its ratepayers, not trying to engage in foreign affairs."
Fiona Byrne (Mayor and Greens candidate for the state seat of Marrickville) appeared to back away from the boycott today after it was revealed that a full boycott would cost some $3.7 million.
Most of this cost would be in replacing the council Hewlett Packard computers, which are apparently used at Isreali military checkpoints.
Lee Rhiannon, Greens Federak Senator-elect, came out in support of the policy today but went on to say that "...it's not something we're taking to the federal parliament. There are clear priorities."
This last quote is the dumbest part of the whole thing, as it is only the Federal Government that has any prospect of making a tangible difference to Middle East.
Marrickville Council is a small council in a country that, on the global scale, is not exactly a power-house. For anyone to think that a boycott makes a jot of difference to anything - well, frankly, it is silly and immature.
I was never involved in student politics back when I was uni, but I understand that many such bodies spend hour after hour agonising over their position on the situation in the middle east.
The student bodies, like Marrickville Council, appear to fundamentally misunderstand their position in the global political climate.
No one cares what position the University X Student Council takes on Isreal except, I warrant, the people sitting on said council. And no one would care what position Marrickville Council takes, except that their decision will affect the residents financially.
If the boycott costs the council money, I think the residents are entitled to be upset about this.
Symbols do serve a purpose, and yes, sometimes boycotts can be a good thing. I think the long standing boycott many groups had on Nestle products because of their promotion of forumla over breat milk in developing countries is a great thing. It hits Nestle where is hurts (their bottom line) and, if enough groups get involved, potentially makes a difference.
This boycott against companies that do business with Israel by one council some 15 000 km away - it's just silly. And a waste of everyone's time and money.
The fact that someone was asked to calculate what it would cost to dissasociate the council from any company that has a relationship with Israel means that the council was at least considering making tangible financial decisions based thereupon.
It wasn't even companies based in Israel, or companies in which the Israeli government has a financial interest - ANYONE who has a business relationship with Israel was a target.
Now, in fairness, Fiona Byrne has apparently pulled back from that above position, but the whole thing is still ridiculous.
The worst thing is that the situation is the Middle East is not a binary issue. it's hardly like that Council's other major boycott (Burma) - the situation in the Middle East is murky, to say the least. it's picking sides in an issue that is complex beyond belief.
Rates, rubbish and roads. it's not that hard, is it?
**Before you flame me in the comments - I have no fixed position on the Middle East. Both sides have been wronged, both sides have done the wrong thing, and neither side has my support. There is no good guy and there is no bad guy. OK?**