The annual Local Government Association Conference is an important event in the calendars of many Councillors from across NSW. It is a great opportunity to learn from the work of other Councils, meet Councillors from other areas and let the views of local government representatives working together be heard by the state government and others.
Sadly this years conference, which I attended last week in Dubbo, was marked by major hostility towards the Greens.
Blame for this rests squarely with a large number of Councillors, mostly Liberals (both openly confessed Liberals and supposed ‘independents’), who decided to use the conference as an opportunity for pushing vendettas and scoring political points and in doing so acted like spoilt children. Buoyed by swings to the right at this year’s local government elections conservative Councillors from across the state decided to gloat, taunt and generally just be outright rude to those who don’t share their views and political persuasions.
Greens Councillors were heckled and shouted down when they spoke, particularly women from the Greens, and their motions were voted down simply because of who proposed them. Greens Leichhardt Councillor Rochelle Porteous even had a crowd loudly count down the remaining time she had left to speak as she addressed the conference, meaning that nothing she said could be heard.
While some old right wing men might think it’s funny or politically beneficial to act like the Greens have nothing worth saying – while making sure they don’t get the chance to say it – that’s not how elected officials should act and by doing so they turned the usually productive conference into a complete farce – a farce paid for by the ratepayers of Councils throughout the state.
Sadly the irony of this waste seemed lost on these conservatives, many of whom ran for election on platforms of cutting unnecessary Council expenditure.
One can only hope that, with local government elections less than two months ago, these Councillors will grow out of their juvenile attitudes and get on with the important work they were elected to do. One hopes that this new batch of right wingers intend to act as responsible Councillors and didn’t simply seek their positions in order to achieve some kind of political power, but signs from the conference aren’t promising.
If this is the way things are going to go Greens on Councils throughout the state will have to work extra hard to support their communities as conservative Councillors slack off and bicker over the next four years. It’s a big task but I think we’re up for it.