Friday, April 15, 2011

Council of War

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 "'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?**


  1. Yes that's right too gutless to take a position or you might cop what the greens have taken. Mmmm.. Wrongs on both sides etc. So you have taken a position. There is equal blame and equal wrongs. What a 'pathetically sad way if saying I won't take a position.

    By taking this line you are taking sides. Think about the facts before declaring equivalence is the balanced position to take. Intellectual cowardice. There is no doubt Israel is the one flouting international law. God why bother just join the conga line against the council. My advice stretch your brain and investigate the facts so you can see how hollow insulting the 'Im in the middle' lie is.

  2. What ever happened to nuclear free councils?
    Has a council ever punched above it's weight on a State or Federal issue?
    Mosman council began road closures and traffic calming devices adopted city wide before 1980.
    A republican minded mayor once incurred similar derision for removing the Queens picture

  3. Amazing that Barry O'Farrell jumps into this with

    >>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."

    Yet when the unreasonable conduct of Canterbury Council verified by the NSW Ombudsman was address to him he blocked the group from following his twitter account. A twitter group/email that is simply trying to get an appropriate apology for an 84 year old woman who was the victim of their lies.

    Search on Mallone Canterbury Ombudsman as a far majority of the disgusting responses the General Manager of this Council has provided the woman is a disgrace. A woman who has a $270,000 debt directly related to their negligence and unreasonable conduct. 7 years of it and the General Manager threatened her with unsubstantiated works. Yet next door to her they were refusing to address major illegal works that qualified engineers said wer creating the conditions that saw her land collapse.

    Barry O'Farrell answer - let's block SupportMallone What a disgrace from a new NSW Premier that signed a contract about openness and accountability.

    Look just at these two document:
    The apology was a cut and paste from the Ombudsman report recommendation

    Again a $240,000 plus debt and that is the apology fill of sincerity and integrity.

    And look at these two. Do you see openness, accountability or any integrity in this Council.

    Again, this Council response was received by Mrs Mallone only because of the Ombo investigation when her reps asked for the documents to support those decisions this is their response

    They demand she incur further costs to find out only some of the details and she has to sign a confidentiality form. At to make the matter worse she has an earlier letter from the Council lawyers that states "Council has engaged the services...." and not as the lawyers now state which is the lawyers engaged them.

    Council permitted major works to a cliff in 2008 that impact on her and her land. Works that are disgusting on the eye and seen from a great distance - and they allowed it all without the required development application that they had been stating was required for 5 years.

    argh enough.

    That contract Barry O'Farrell signed was a JOKE.

  4. I think that you're right but I also think that it's important for ratepayers in Marrickville to decide what extent that they want their council, that they elected, to represent their values. The people of Marrickville didn't vote for O'Farrell, they didn't even vote for his party and yet will, and should, pass final judgement on their council with their votes. This is not for Barry O'Farrell to interfere in. This is true because the state seat of Marrickville and the LGA cover largely the same geographical area.

    I thought your analogy of student politics was very apt, though.