The pamphlet she and her crew dropped into letter boxes suggests the Liberals alone gave us the Narellan Sporting Hub, private hospital, underground rail extension, protected Kirkham’s green pastures and made this council fiscally responsible.
Meanwhile council voting patterns show these wins were brought to you by the entire council voting for the good of the community - not the Liberals alone.
But it appears to be a very different story when the Liberal bloc does exercise its majority power. Often it seems that when they vote as a bloc the result is to extend their influence further and make council decision-making far less transparent. You can see what we mean below.
Over the past term the Liberals have exercised their majority vote and overruled other councillors as follows:
- Voted as a bloc to change the rules so that only those councillors voted by the majority can attend the Local Government Association Conference. The only Independent to be selected since then was Greg Copeland in 2015, when his voting patterns had become very aligned to those of the Liberal bloc.
- Liberal councillor Peter Sidgreaves was selected over Greg Warren, as a voting delegate on the Macarthur Regional Organisation of Councils (MACROC).
- Sacked the General Manager, Greg Wright, on the spot in a closed meeting without explanation. They used their numbers to close the meeting, so no councillor could legally comment on what happened publicly and then rolled the Independents again in that closed meeting to get rid of Greg Wright.
- Using their vote the Liberal bloc repeatedly ensured none of the details around the sacking of Greg Wright were made public. In the meeting of January 29, 2013 they voted as a bloc against the following requests made by Independents.
- An explanation as to why the mayor didn’t list the sacking as a business item or notify the public of the item in a closed meeting.
- A report from the mayor confirming that Greg Wright had said he preferred a closed meeting – as stated publicly by the mayor in the Camden Advertiser. The Independents asked, was that statement of a general nature about performance review meetings or specific to his termination?
- A report confirming which councillors were consulted before the sacking and asking why the independents weren’t consulted.
- A call for a public forum explaining the sacking to the community, why the sacking took place in a closed meeting and to advertise the forum in the local papers.
- The Liberals bloc twice used their vote to refuse $10,000 to help Narellan Chamber of Commerce fund a Christmas in Narellan celebration.
- Appointed four Liberal councillors to the Joint Regional Planning Panel. Symkowiak and Sidgreaves were the first choice with Fischer and Fedeli as their fill-ins if they were absent.
- Refused a moratorium to postpone works on the Camden Town Centre after receiving a large petition and alternative proposals for the works from the Camden community, Camden Chamber of Commerce, Camden Historical Society and Camden Community Alliance.
- Shut down public addresses by people still concerned by the town development by using their voting bloc to refuse 2-minute time extensions. They did this six times over three meetings in 2014 and then again in 2016 when members of the public wanted to address the issue of the council car park that was to be decided at that meeting.
- Voted as a bloc to expel two members of the public from the council chambers.
- Voted as a bloc with Cr Copeland who’s voting patterns seemed to be shifting towards those of the Liberal bloc to write a letter to the Electoral Commission asking that the Macarthur electoral boundaries remain unchanged at the 2016 election. It may help to remember that the Liberal Party’s Russell Matheson held the seat of Macarthur. Before the boundary change it was notionally Liberal, afterwards the seat became notionally Labor. It is hard to see how such a request advantaged the Camden community.
- Changed the Camden Council Code of Meeting Practice in ways that appeared to make the council less transparent in how it conducts its business and more difficult for the community to voice its concerns. The changes included:
- Only allowing public addresses to be about what was on that night’s business agenda.
- Councillors being given only one minute to put questions to other councillors and council employees per business item. Considering some of the complexities of major development proposals in this area, that seems an unreasonably short time for a transparent council.
- Any Camden Council personnel matters – like sacking General Managers – must now be conducted in closed meetings.
- Petitions to Camden Council must now include full names, addresses, phone numbers and signatures to be valid. It seems like a honeypot for anyone interested in identity theft and is likely to make people less inclined to sign petitions. This was originally moved by Councillor Greg Copeland to prevent the acceptance of a petition by Camden Community Alliance.
- In July this year, the new closed meeting rules were brought into action when the General Manager's performance review was carried behind closed doors. The voting patterns after the meeting showed that the Independents may have had some concerns about the performance but we will never know what they are – because the Liberal votes overruled their concerns and because they were held in a closed meeting sealing them from public view and discussion.
So, this tells you what the Liberal bloc is really getting done in Camden community – not just building footy fields and preserving green space.
The voting record suggests that when the bloc does exercise its majority vote it incidentally puts its members and allies into positions of power, makes council processes a little less transparent and makes it much harder for the Camden community to be heard on all issues by its council.
So next time you pick up one of those glossy flyers, ignore the claims that the parks, the green areas, the rail tunnel and sensitive (?) development have been created by the Liberals. Those changes are owned by all of our councillors.
Look instead at how they voted, so you can see that when this Liberal bloc has really exercised its power and you get a more genuine glimpse of what and in some cases who is getting done.