We have seen some awful decisions that have been rammed through by this bloc but I'm not going to deal with those now. Instead, let's take a look at the raw numbers to give you an idea of why allowing any political party control of a local council is a mistake.
The voting patterns of this bloc are unlike anything we have ever seen before. Let me take you through the numbers — something political parties and their faceless men are very familiar with.
Back in 2011, we had an independent council with no single party dominating and the community being considered on every vote. In that year the council had 22 meetings. On only five occasions did the entire council vote the same way. As a percentage that's just on 12.5%.
Now look at how things change when a single party starts to dominate.
# of meetings
5/22 - 23.8%
1/6 - 16%
7/22 - 31.8%
4/22 - 18.2%
4/22 - 18.2%
3/13 - 23.1%
(prior to Libs bloc)
5/6 - 83.3%
18/22 - 81.2%
19/22 - 86.4%
16/22 - 72.3%
6/13 - 46.15% (-PF 92%)
This data suggests these Liberal councillors are all of such a similar mind that they almost never disagree on anything. The alternative to this explanation doesn't bear thinking about and we are certainly not suggesting that the councillors decide as a group how to vote before they enter the Chambers. There is no evidence presented to us that would suggest this is the case.
But, let's get back to 2016 where we see an unexpected drop in the way the Liberal bloc votes. Suddenly there is disagreement in Liberal ranks with the bloc agreeing less than 50% of the time for an entire meeting. What happened?
Claims of branch stacking happened with a civil war breaking out in the ranks of the Camden Liberals. Suddenly Penny Fischer was no longer part of the team and the mayor and local state member, Chris Patterson, decided to attack her for not reading out the Acknowledgement of Country in the Sydney Morning Herald. Claims that this attack had nothing to do with the branch stacking allegations don't hold much water as Cr Fisher had held this position throughout her time at the Council. If this was not a payback then it was certainly a remarkable coincidence.
The fact that Penny Fischer is not running for council this time around is also intriguing.
Rob Copeland's voting patterns changed too, but I'll deal with that in another post. Let's just say he doesn't look quite as independent anymore.
When we take the Penny Fischer events into account, the drop in agreement across entire meetings in 2016 can be directly related to how many times Cr Fischer did not vote with her colleagues.
If Penny Fisher is removed from the Liberal bloc and treated as an independent, then it means that there is only one meeting for the entirety of 2016 when the Liberals didn't vote together on everything put before them.
That means the Liberals voted as a bloc 12/13 meetings. That is a 92% agreement. If we were to go on individual votes that figure would be close to 100%.
In short, the Liberals have dominated this council and railroaded through votes that will have dramatic impacts now and into the future on our region. In coming posts, we will look at what that has meant for the voice and character of the Camden community and some of the intriguing decisions and votes that have passed through the council with barely a mention in the local news.