The NSW government has closed a gaping loophole which allowed 29 MPs to receive double salaries and allowances for being mayors/councillors whilst MPs. With constituents’ issues often identical, Janus-faced MPs were paid twice for this “synergy”. This was not democracy. It was kleptocracy: stealing our inchoate right to decide how our democracy works best for us.
NSW is now aligned with other major states and the UK and USA.
Only one independent MP objected, lower house MP Clover Moore, claiming this non-partisan approach was personal. A case of “Mirror, mirror” perhaps? Liberal MP and Randwick Councillor Bruce Notley-Smith raised no objection. Both houses confidently passed laws in the public interest expunging future abuses.
How many MPs raised concerns in parliament about their council’s affairs? None. Voters rightly realised MPs were putting their own political and financial interests first.
In 2003, Moore told the ICAC: “I strongly believe that being a Member of Parliament is a full-time job. The demands of the job require the full commitment of the Member’s time, energy, effort and intellect … the citizens of NSW expect Members to be full-time”.
While she played the victim better than any Broadway starlet in this imbroglio, voters were the real victims.
Claims of hard Parliamentary work proved hollow. Apparently, she spoke 53 times last year and made one statement per week, whereas the Premier made none. She wrote more questions than all 69 Coalition MPs combined, introducing three Bills (one became law).
But coalition MPs ask their questions in cabinet or of their colleagues direct, not in Parliament. The real question is whether Clover Moore has asked more questions than other Independents? Answer: no. And from 2007 to 2010 she missed 28 per cent of all sitting days.
Recently she was entirely tacit on the crucial issue of legal changes which allow councillors to hold pecuniary interests whilst voting on planning changes. So who is she really representing?
Claims that O’Farrell’s laws are based on a “sham enquiry”, with Australia so over-governed we now need an expensive state-wide referendum, lack substance. Why not eliminate local government altogether then? This enquiry was open to all. With government elected just last March we don’t need a referendum about democracy.
Many lawyers say dual-role positions are illegal. “Office of profit under the Crown” laws prohibit mayors receiving money via government who also hold another state office eg. MP.
Clover’s allegation O’Farrell “manipulated our democracy” might be true. But isn’t making democracy more accountable a good thing? And wasn’t Clover hypocritical by manipulating the system herself?
She forgets democracy is about one thing: choice. We now choose who can and who can’t be mayor and we exclude MPs, judges and criminals. We choose who we want as our mayor or MP, separately. And Clover can now choose which position she wants, MP or Mayor, but not both.
It’s a win for our future democracy and for those demanding clearer and more accountable separation of political powers.
Potts Point & Kings Cross Heritage Conservation Society