The Newcastle Herald has had investigative reporters looking into the conduct of the last Port Stephens Election since the financial returns were made available from the N.S.W Electoral Funding Authority late November last year. Their revelations only confirm what TRRA suspected just prior to the election and wrote about subsequently on this site. HERE
These people deliberately avoided any fair scrutiny by their constituents, boycotting all the TRRA forums set up for that purpose. If they had taken the opportunity provided to tell the people what they were doing in a transparent manner, they may have avoided the opprobrium that they are now going to face in the electorate.
The TRRA Executive were interviewed, provided material from our records to the reporters to assist their investigation and have made an extensive submission to the Electoral Authority on this issue.
We are very concerned at the ‘develop at any cost’ attitude of this Council and their record is there for all to see. Many of their development decisions have been made against the recommendations of staff and statutory authorities. A lot of them were regurgitated from the previous Council’s rejections and given the go ahead. This was also obviously part of the Grand Strategy.These bad decisions will no doubt have legal ramifications and will probably come back to haunt ratepayers long into the future.
TRRA is not suggesting that this group has done anything illegal with their plan per se, although The EFA is investigating the possibility that the donations made to other candidates by the Mayor and others may be in breech of the Electoral Funding Act, because if the donors are connected in any way with the liquor industry or are designated as developers, they may be classified by the act as ‘Prohibited Donors’ under recent legislation bought in by the current government.
It is one thing to ‘game’ the rules for your own advantage, but it is another to game the ratepayers. The scale and expense incurred in this exercise and the politics behind it were not apparent to the average voter and the gloating afterward has made a lot of people feel that they have been duped.
Our biggest concern is, that now that the precedent has been set, it will become apparent to wealthy individuals that elections can be bought or manipulated by organised groups gaming the system and harvesting preferences from unwitting voters who are obliged to vote on a large complex ballot paper, but just want to get it over with by ticking a box.above the line.
There needs to be a change of rules or a massive public education campaign to prevent further distortions like this occurring in the future. The perpetrators of this underhand scheme have now been publicly exposed, and although they think they are very clever they should be seen for what they really are by the ratepayers of Port Stephens.
A word of warning to those who hold these people up as ‘go getters’ that ‘cut through’ and ‘get things done’. Take a good look at ‘what’ is being done, and ‘who for’ and what corners are being cut to get it done. That is what TRRA do best and we put it on this site for you to decide.
Mayor of Port Stephens Bruce Mackenzie rejects criticism of his “like-minded” Council. N H March 1st, 2014.
Here are the electronic links to all the stories in the Herald in the ‘Bruce Almighty’ series, from Friday 28 Feb 2014. Some of the articles have interactive pictures at the top, and comments at the bottom, they are worth a click, we will continue to update this aggregation as the story unfolds………. Great investigative reporting Donna, Michael & Greg!