Local councils aren’t known for being beacons of democracy. In fact, they usually provide little more than a greasy handshake and a sack of cash as a barrier to the profits of big developers.
But in his campaign to sell off every inch of NSW to developer mates and private transport providers, premier Mike Baird has proven he won’t let even a whiff of democracy get in his way.
All pretence of democracy was ditched in May, when Baird’s government sacked 42 councils and replaced them with appointed Liberal administrators.
Speaking to Red Flag, a sacked Labor councillor described the mergers as “an unprecedented attack on democracy”.
“The vast majority of residents did not want their councils to merge. But the government completely ignored them. It is unacceptable that there will be a period of 16 months during which councils will be run by appointed bureaucrats rather than elected representatives”, the councillor said.
In a sign that NSW really is “open for business”, Baird has scheduled elections for the new super-councils in September 2017, several months after the approval of key stages of the WestConnex highway project and other major developments.
Chris Johnson, the chief executive of the developer lobby group Urban Taskforce, urged unelected bureaucrats not to hesitate in pushing ahead with major projects. “If the administrators are told they are caretakers and not to do anything that could be controversial or rock the boat, it would a pretty negative and slow time”, Johnson said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
But Baird’s agenda of dictatorial profiteering isn’t going unchallenged. Protesters have disrupted meetings every time the unelected council administrators have tried to meet.
In Sydney’s inner west, the first ordinary meeting of the newly appointed Quisling council was anything but ordinary. While the hand-wringing liberal media and opposition MPs have been put off by the “thuggish behaviour” of angry locals, the protesters chalked up a victory, shutting the meeting down.
In Forster, Knitting Nanas Against Greed (+ Gas and Fossil Fuels) staged a sit-in that drowned out tin-pot dictator John Turner. The nanas chanted “Out, out, out!” and “We want democracy!” The women carried placards that read “We didn’t vote for this guy” and took over the administrator’s chair, forcing the meeting to come to an end.
These protests come alongside a growing chorus of opposition to Baird’s agenda of profits for private developers, draconian police powers and rising public transport fees.