The promotions of Ben Keneally and Ron Hoenig in the precinct of Botany have sparked intrigue over the machinations of the Labor Right.
Ben Keneally, the Husband of former Premier Kristina Keneally was preselected unopposed last Friday to be Labor’s candidate for the Mayoralty of Botany. This follows hard on the heels of the Mayor of Botany, Ron Hoenig’s unopposed preselection for the safe Labor seat of Heffron, vacated by Ms Keneally.
As Labor is expected to win both seats by a comfortable margin, Mr Keneally and Mr Hoenig have been effectively ordained to those positions. Greens NSW Local Government spokesperson, David Shoebridge was scathing about the Botany power swap.
He said: “The Labor Party hasn’t changed its spots, they continue
to treat Botany and its surrounds as a Labor Right fiefdom.
“We’ve seen the member for Heffron resign, her husband effectively become Mayor for Botany Council and the Mayor switch places for her former seat. It doesn’t end there because all the reports are Mr Keneally, who has inherited Botany Council, has been promised future
preselection for the federal seat of Kingsford Smith.”
Mr Keneally said he was completely focused on his business career and working to support his community through local government service.
“I have no plans for any other roles,” he said.
The seat of Heffron has a history of controversy. In October 2002 Eric Roozendaal, then head of Labors dominant right faction, dumped long-time state Labor MP Deirdre Grusovin in favour of Kristina Keneally.
Ms Grusovin is the sister of the then Federal member for Kingsford Smith, Laurie Brereton. At the time, Mr Brerenton accused the Labor
Party’s head office of trying to “thump his sister” as part of a
campaign by Mr Roozendaal to politically damage him.
Ms Grusovin dropped an action in the NSW Supreme Court, when it became clear head office was determined to deny her a rank and file preselection.
Mr Shoebridge said: “The deck chairs are changing but its still the same captain. This is the Labor Right asserting its ownership of these elected positions.”
“It is deeply troubling, Ron Hoenig who had such little regard for local democracy is now preening to inherit Heffron. He will not be an adornment in parliament if elected.”
Mr Hoenig is longest serving Mayor in metropolitan Sydney, holding the position since 1981. He heads a Council of all Labor representatives who were elected unopposed. The State Government introduced legislation earlier this year changing the method of voting in councils with two-member wards from representative to proportional. This moved the threshold to elect a member to 33 per cent plus one. In response Botany Council reformed all of their wards from two members to one.
In a statement in March, Mr Shoebridge said: “That act betrays more than a century of proportional representation at the local council
level and turns the Council into six single member electorates, each with a 50 per cent plus one threshold for election.
“In 2008, Botany Council did not even hold elections. Only Labor nominated because it had such a sweet ride under the undemocratic counts that used to exist under two member wards.
“Now that those Labor councillors see that there might be a democratic count under two member wards they have tried to avoid it by changing to one member wards.
“The system of representation in Botany Council has made it next to impossible for anyone except the Labor administration to win. That has meant that opposition parties generally don’t even bother to contest the election, and whoever the Labor Party wants to run the council is
simply handed the job.”
Mr Hoenig was contacted for comment but did not reply before deadline.