Meredith Burgmann, Labor
Member of the NSW Legislative Council 1991 to 2007
President of the NSW Legislative Council 1999 to 2007
Meredith Burgmann has no problem with being described as part of the ‘gaggle of the left’.
‘I’ve always stood up for what I believe is the proper Labor tradition. I think my left Labor position is a very comfortable fit with the people of the inner city,’ she said.
But despite being a member of the Labor Party since 1971, she is keen to differentiate herself within Labor ranks.
‘I’ve always been seen as quite separate to Labor. I’ve never been part of a Labor Government and deliberately did not stand for the ministry. I disagreed openly with Bob [Carr] on civil liberties and development issues.’
Burgmann has made it clear she will accept no campaign donations from developers, pokies or from Labor head office because some of it may have come from developers.
Her main problem is that despite her many years in the State Parliament and having served as president of the Upper House, she is comparatively unknown. Among the politically active her profile is higher, due to a long history of activism in women’s issues and in the green ban movement of the 1970s.
‘I was involved in the campaign to save Victoria Street in the ’70s, and I marched in the very first Mardi Gras in 1978,’ she said.
Burgmann has also made her mark as an academic ‘ she was senior lecturer in politics at Macquarie University ‘ and holds a BA Sydney University 1969 (English and Government), an MA Sydney University 1973 (Foreign Policy), and a PhD Macquarie University 1981 (Industrial Relations).
She co-authored with Verity Burgmann the definitive book on the Green bans movement, Green Bans Red Unions (1998, 2000), which is still used as a university text on industrial relations and environmental causes. She has also contributed articles and chapters in books on equal pay, foreign policy, environmentalism, Aboriginal rights, and HV Evatt.
Now Burgmann believes Labor’s record as a party of social justice will help her get elected in the City.
‘We are obviously the underdog. We are up against an incumbent with a huge PR machine. And people are loath to throw out anyone after one term. People are still grumbling about the two jobs but won’t throw Clover Moore out because of that.’
She says Moore has not paid enough attention to day-to-day services, especially south of Cleveland Street and in parts of Glebe. Burgmann says footpaths, garbage collection and ‘filthy’ alleys have been neglected while the Lord Mayor has spent council funds pursuing ‘big vision’ items the City of Sydney cannot provide.
‘Her [Clover Moore’s] focus is not on the general provision of services. She’s more interested in getting overseas experts to tell her to pull down the Cahill expressway.
‘Sustainable Sydney 2030 is her re-election manifesto and it’s basically saying other people should do things. All the big vision items will not be provided by the council, and that puts her in the position of not having to say no to anyone because she can always say it’s not her fault if it’s not done,’ she said.
‘Yes, everyone needs a vision. Mine is of a more inclusive city. Our campaign is going to be about how the City should be for everyone. Clover has pandered to the elites, and the socially disadvantaged have missed out. People around the Housing Department areas and other pockets of real need feel ignored.
‘We need more services for seniors and youth, better lighting, and making public spaces more usable. And there’s not been one council-run childcare bed provided during her entire term, while the city is experiencing a baby boom.
‘A lot of this can be provided by cutting the budget of the Lord Mayor’s office. Her personal office budget is $1.93 million. I undertake to cut it by 25 per cent immediately, and probably by more once we’ve looked at it. It won’t mean getting rid of staff but reallocating them to other parts of council.’