Comment: 2015 NSW State Elections
TRRA Inc. is a non-partisan, a-political organisation and we do not support candidates or political parties in State, Federal or Council elections. We do however, consistent with the objectives in our constitution published on our website, reserve the right to be critical of the individual performance of incumbent members or intending candidates if their expressed views are inconsistent with those TRRA objectives.
The Association was put in a difficult position recently regarding the controversial decision of local Liberal Party branches to preselect Port Stephens Councillor Ken Jordan as their candidate in the NSW State election, he has some history with TRRA in his role as a Councillor, his association with Nathan Tinkler’s Company Buildev and it’s CEO Darren Williams.. The alternative candidate, Jamie Abbott had no connection with any of the people named in last year’s ICAC investigation, which resulted in the departure of the previous incumbent, Crag Baumann, and has not been associated with Port Stephens Council, both these matters were of major concern to TRRA.
Our membership is comprised of people of all political persuasions, and although we don’t ask, we suspect that the majority have fairly conservative views, as does most of this electorate, reflected in their elected candidates in previous State and Federal elections. One of TRRA’s objectives is “to provide a forum for discussion of the critical issues and needs of the local area” and within the constraints mentioned above we have tried very hard to achieve that with our ‘Meet the Candidate forums’ in an attempt to allow the candidates to introduce themselves and constituents to question them on their views and aspirations.
Unfortunately, as exposed in the ‘Bruce Almighty’ series in the Newcastle Herald, the concerted effort of the pro development lobby with a dubious preference and funding strategy ensured the election of a ‘development at all costs’ 7-3 faction in the last Port Stephens Council. The Mayor and his supportive candidates (with the exception of Sally Dover, who attended one out of four) boycotted all the forums and avoided any scrutiny before gaining office. Ken Jordan has persisted with this strategy in this State election.
In our efforts to hold our Councils worst excesses to account TRRA have inevitably come into conflict with our flamboyant Mayor Bruce Mackenzie, who has had an enthusiastic supporter in Councillor Ken Jordan. Their first initiatives upon election were to get rid of the webcasting of Council meetings and change the Meeting schedule to make it more difficult to scrutinize the Council papers or consult with Councillors before decisions are made. Ken Jordan went on Local ABC radio to defend these decisions which were strongly opposed by TRRA at the time.
We can’t remember any submission or initiative that TRRA has put to Council that has been supported by Councillor Jordan. We have been refused Public Access to Council, which is at the Mayors discretion, Ken Jordan has regularly supported development applications against the recommendations of Council Staff and State Authorities and ignored our submissions on these important decisions.
When Crag Bauman was elected to Parliament for his second term, TRRA sent a delegation to congratulate him and seek his support for submissions to the State Government and suggested that regular consultation would be in everyone’s interest. Despite invitations being extended to attend our meetings he never has, we are not aware of any support received for our submissions and no consultation ever took place.
In stark contrast Kate Washington has attended many of our meetings, listened to our concerns and passed some of them on to the Hon. Sophie Costis, Shadow minister for local Government, who raised them in Parliament and at Budget Estimates. Ms Washington attended our Forum along with the keen young Greens Candidate Rochelle Flood and both were ready to debate the issues we raised with the other candidates, but they failed to show.
We are pleased that the people of Port Stephens have, despite their conservative tendencies, shared our expressed concerns with the ‘Old Boys Club” that has been running Port Stephens for some time and rejected the imposition of this candidate with an emphatic 20% swing, one of the biggest in the State. We would like to congratulate Ms Washington on her decisive win, and look forward to working with her for the next four years. She has already pledged her support for many issues we have discussed with her so far. We realize that she is only able to put our position from opposition but at least we will get some representation at parliamentary level which has been sadly absent in the past.
Politics is always difficult, but as an organisation we have to consider our constitutional objectives and work out who our friends are and those that oppose what we are trying to achieve. Let’s leave the Party Politics out of it and look at the individuals involved here, it is pretty obvious that the people of Port Stephens have done just that…… They are to be congratulated as well!