Thursday, September 21, 2006

Clover Moore's glass jaw

This week's Council meeting has again highlighted the recurring flaw in Clover Moore's leadership style. eCouncillor readers will recall that the annual election of committee chairs, CSPC members (2) and the Deputy Lord Mayor as the ONLY time that the 10 Councilors each have an equal vote - that's real democracy. There is no casting or second vote for the Lord Mayor in the election process in stark comparison to her nightly exercise of her casting or second vote (arguably an undemocratic power) each time she can not get her way at the Council meeting.

Last year the Moore party lost the Deputy Lord Mayoral position to Labor's Councilor Verity Firth in a 5 all tied vote and a subsequent 'draw from the hat' (or wooden barrel actually) between Firth and Moore's candidate John McInerney. Fearing that she could not guarantee her people into the plush elected positions chairing the various Council committee (Finance, Planning, Cultural etc) Moore moved a sudden resolution to abolish the chair positions by seizing control of them for herself. This was reported by the Sydney Morning Herald as a sign of her inability to handle criticism (see below).

SMH September 2005
Moore and more
September 17, 2005
Clover Moore's grip on the controls of the city just got tighter, so be careful not to get in her way, warn her colleagues. Tim Dick reports.

Some people thrive on criticism. Some are broken by it. Some just don't tolerate it - from friend or foe - and are prepared to cop the consequences of not hearing it.
This week, Sydney's Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, discovered the ramifications of what her opponents say are the main irritants of her mayoralty: over-sensitivity, exclusion and taking credit for everything the council does, her idea or not.
Her deputy, the planning expert John McInerney, was dumped from office after the Greens councillor Chris Harris withdrew his support. Without it, McInerney lost by lot, a blind draw from a wooden box, prompting Moore to use a procedural rule to seize all seven of the council's committee chairmanships.
After being criticised for wanting two jobs, member of Parliament and mayor, she now has 10, including chairing the Central Sydney Planning Committee, a government-controlled body which approves major development.
Harris and Moore, a community independent with a decidedly green tinge, should be firm bedfellows. But, after Moore's promise last year to work co-operatively and constructively with other Councilors, things have soured.

On Monday night Moore took her autocratic and undemocratic leadership style one step too far moving to in effect abolish the position of Deputy Lord Mayor since she could not accept a 50:50 democratic chance on the outcome. Opposition Councillors smelt a rat early on in the unprecedented reversal in the order of the elections with Council electing the Chair of Traffic Committee before dealing with the Deputy Lord Mayoral position. (see Election of Office Bearers for 2006/07 below)

Opposition Councillors still contest the remnant Deputy Chairs of Committees that were ironically all won by Moore loyalists via a draw from the hat. But when Clover Moore pounced with a motion to not elect a Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney the opposition Councillors were outraged. We may have let her seize control of Committee chairmanships last year with a loud grumble and again this year but to abolish a position that is as old as the Council itself and that exists in all other Councils across Australia was going too far. In riding rough shod over the democratic election of the deputy position by the Councillors, Clover Moore and her advisors had taken their arrogance in power one step too far. How on earth they did not foresee our genuine outrage is very hard to comprehend. One after the other the 5 opposition Councillors rose in anger speaking out in outrage against the insult to the Council and the people of Sydney. Moore party Councillors rubbed their hands together claiming the position was redundant and an historical anomaly! It wasn't when Councilor McInerney held onto it for the first 15 months nor when he ran last year to be defeated by Firth.

In speaking on a point of order against the proposal to abolish the post I made the point that it was not as though a non Moore party Deputy Lord Mayor had been a fly in the ointment for Clover Moore and the City. In fact Labor's Councilor Firth had proved herself a co-operative and an effective Deputy and generally sang from the same song sheet as Moore. But this was different - this was not going to be one of the sisterhood, it was Greens Councilor Chris Harris, her opponent in Bligh/Sydney seat at the coming election and the 'Judas' of her Lord Mayoralty (her description). Harris has been running an effective gorilla (no pun intended there Chris - should be guerilla) campaign against Moore in her electorate and she feared his win would elevate his campaign status even further as well as quadruple his resources. I can see her concern with her double salaries and more the 1700 staff compared to Harris' 4 staff and $27,000 as a Councilor. With the two jobs (Lord Mayor and MP) issue still biting in the thoughts of the electorate, Harris' election to DLM would further erode her greenish voter base.

The opposition Councillors exercised their only other real power and walked out of the meeting to deny Moore a quorum and force her to conduct a democratic ballot. Moore seemed genuinely stunned as we left the Council chamber filing past an applauding and angry public gallery. The Local Government Act gives Council 30 minutes to reconvene. Failing to do so the chair sets a new date and time to continue the meeting. 15 minutes into our protest the Moore party Councilor Robyn Kemmis (who we elected earlier unopposed as the Deputy Chair of Finance Committee) called down to the opposition offices requesting our return and announcing that Clover Moore was withdrawing her motion to abolish the position of Deputy Lord Mayor. We returned and after a typical spin laced lecture from Moore we proceeded to the ballot. The draw from the hat delivered Councilor Chris Harris. That's karma for you Clover!!

In other related news - I was elected unopposed and unanimously to the powerful Central Sydney Planning Committee (details below) having forced my way onto the CSPC last year against Moore's wishes and using the draw from the hat method it seems I have earnt my place there. That goes to show that Moore's paranoia about sharing power says more about her psychology than the reality.

Election of CSPC Members
FILE NO: S031913
To Council:
The Central Sydney Planning Committee (CSPC) is constituted by the City of Sydney Act 1988.
Section 34(1) of the Act provides that the Committee shall consist of seven members:
(a) the Lord Mayor of Sydney;
(b) a senior government employee with architectural experience nominated by the Minister administering the Public Works Act 1912;
(c) 2 Councillors of the City of Sydney elected by the City Council;
(d) the Director of Planning under the Planning Act; and
(e) 2 persons appointed by the Minister administering Part 4 of the Planning Act.
The person appointed pursuant to Clause (b) is Mr Peter Mould, NSW Government Architect, Department of Commerce.
The two persons appointed by the Minister pursuant to clause (e) are Ms Antoinette le Marchant and Mr Neil Bird.
Previously, the Council has chosen to hold a separate election for each of the two positions and the elections were by open, exhaustive voting.
At the Council meeting of 12 September 2005, Council elected Councilor John McInerney and Councilor Shayne Mallard to the two positions on the CSPC for terms ending on 30 September 2006.

In the following day's media Moore's spin city was decrying the undemocratic 'draw from the hat' and making the extraordinary claim that she should be able to appoint who she wants as deputy because that method is MORE democratic. Get that logic? it seemed Ok when she is winning the positions. But with 43% of the primary vote at the Council election there is a case to be made that the leadership of the Council should be more proportional. Clover Moore's constant use of a second or casting vote dozens of times to ram through her party's agenda could also be described as undemocratic using her logic.
Deputy draw creates problem for Moore
Bellinda KontominasSeptember 19, 2006
CLOVER MOORE'S hopes of choosing her deputy as Lord Mayor of Sydney have been dashed after a dramatic walk-out at a council meeting last night.
All but the independent Councilors walked out in protest over Ms Moore's decision not draw the deputy's name out of a hat, but they were soon called back in and the name of the Greens councillor Chris Harris was drawn.
Under the Local Government Act a council may elect a deputy mayor but is not required to. Cr Moore said the State Government should change the law.
"It is ridiculous in this day and age that Sydney's deputy lord mayor needs to be appointed through a draw from a hat." The appointment of Cr Harris, who has said he will stand for Cr Moore's state seat in March, is a serious blow to her.
She said backroom deals had been done by Labor, the Liberals and the Greens to place in the role someone more concerned with state politics than the council.
She said it could subvert her work for the city. "I don't think [this process] is the proper use of public money.
"Relying on the luck of the draw is undemocratic and until the State Government sees fit to amend the legislation I will continue to delegate duties to Councilors based on their skill, interest and availability."
Cr Moore, who has been criticised for her autocratic management style, said it was her right as Lord Mayor to choose her deputy.
"I describe my style as inclusive and non-adversarial. I'm here to serve the city and I expect all parties to do the same," she said. Cr Harris could not be reached for comment last night.

The name-from-a-hat option is as old as democracy itself. Probably older than the casting vote. Rather than undemocratic as Moore claims, it is believed to have evolved as a civilised way to resolve ballot ties as opposed to bribery or duels. In recent years the draw from a hat method has been proposed to resolve the ALP leadership ballot and it even has constitutional precedent in Victoria where, in a tied 1985 Victorian Upper House election, a returning officer drew the winner from a hat between two candidates.

In a footnote Clover Moore's outrageous actions and the spin her million dollar PR machine put on it have been seen through by many commentators and bloggers. Whilst the mainstream media handled the matter with kid gloves - no doubt finally anthesised by Clover Moore's outrageous advertising spend and huge spin budget- the internet remains beyond her manipulation.

Here's two good blog posts on the shenanigans.

and all this deserves a revisit of the popular eCouncillor Queen Clover post.


Jake McPherson said...

I cant help but think there is an elment of Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth about all this protesting: "Me thinketh my lady[ies] doth protesteth too much" !
In fact the Lord Mayor does have the legal power to choose a deputy, so why shouldn't she?

Shayne Mallard said...

Thanks for the comment and apologies for the delay in posting - technical problem at Blogger.

It is not correct at all to say that any Mayor in NSW has the power to choose a deputy. The Local Government and City of Sydney Acts are very clear - Counncillors may elect from their number a Deputy Lord Mayor for a 12 month term. The Act makes no reference implied or real to the Lord Mayor having the power to appoint a Councilor to that role. It must be remembered that the 5 non Moore Councillors collectively atracted nearly 60% of the primary votes. Proportional representation (something championed by Independents when it benefits their position) would fairly reflect this in the Council's leadership positions. Thus 'electing' a deputy is the democratic approach and 'appointmnet' by Clover Moore is autocratic.