Tuesday 29 September 2020

Bayside Massive Rate Increase - Disgraceful

I am outraged at the Liberal and Independent councillors on Bayside Council who a couple of weeks ago voted to increase residential rates in the former Botany Bay Council area by up to 51 per cent from 1 July next year. The council, under the pretence of harmonisation of council rates across the amalgamated council area, determined a massive increase in rates to residents in my electorate. 

All eight Liberal and Independent councillors voted in favour of this plan, which will see rates increase on average by between 28 per cent and 51 per cent from 1 July 2021. All seven Labor councillors voted against it. 

The Liberals did this during a devastating pandemic and the worst recession since the Great Depression. When the airlines and universities—which support the employment of many of my constituents—are laying off thousands of workers, as are many other employers across my electorate, I will name those Liberal councillors who represent residents in my electorate. Mascot residents are being slugged by the vote of councillor Michael Nagi and Eastlakes residents are being slugged by the vote of councillor Paul Sedrak. 

Their vote for this increase is on the public record and they will be accountable for it. The Bayside Council amalgamation has been an abject failure. The amalgamation was forced upon the residents of the former City of Botany Bay, despite 90 per cent of residents voting against it at a plebiscite. 

Complaints of poor customer service and a reduction in service standards flood my office. Councillors and staff meet for hours in secret under the pretence of briefings, with no public scrutiny of the information conveyed to councillors. When the Minister for Local Government, warned the council that its committees were not permitted to meet in secret, the council abandoned its committee meetings. 

For weeks councillors were locked away with an unresponsive bureaucracy. They were away from pesky, prying, public eyes, being housetrained with various financial models, all designed to get them on board for a massive rate increase. Fortunately, the Labor councillors were not buying it. 

 The Liberal councillors who want to impose this huge increase on my constituents are the same Bayside Liberals who shot to infamy in 2018 when at a Liberal Party branch meeting they started brawling in the streets of Bayside. A number of attendees were charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and assaulting police in the execution of their duty. 

Not only did the Liberals give us a council that our community did not want, the same Liberals who just two years ago were brawling in the streets of the local government area are now voting to increase residents' rates by 51 per cent. No wonder the Premier does not want the Liberals endorsing candidates at the next local government elections. 

If others are like the brawlers from Bayside, I do not blame her. I am loath to blame the legislation at this point. Other amalgamated councils seem to have managed the process. The good, conservative burghers who govern the northern beaches were able to manage a rate harmonisation with the merger of three councils without these extreme increases. 

I am also conscious of the Auditor‑General's report to Parliament and the briefings I received in relation to the council's financial management and procedures, including rates. Voting to increase taxes during a pandemic and a recession at a time of crisis and massive unemployment is outrageous. 

The councillor who represents Mascot in my electorate, Councillor Michael Nagi, to justify his vote told the council, "It's less than a dollar a week", "What does it cost, a cup of coffee?" Councillor Barlow said, "I am just saying it's $4 a week". Those councillors should look Qantas workers in the eye and tell them the same thing. 

I am told that councillors led by councillor Christina Curry and Scott Morrissey have lodged a rescission motion that will be considered next month. That gives the opportunity for those Liberal councillors to reconsider the significance of what they wish to impose on my community. Councillor Michael Nagi and Councillor Paul Sedrak can utilise the time and do something really novel: consult with the people of Mascot and Eastlakes, an area that they do not live in or ever visit. They can look them in the eye and say to these struggling people of my electorate, "Your massive increase is only the price of a cup of coffee."