Media Release: Amalgamation Anger Bites At NSW By-Election

8 Dec 2015

Community outrage at NSW Government moves to force council amalgamations helped drive the Liberal Party to one of its lowest primary votes in the Federal seat of North Sydney since the party was formed, LG NSW President Keith Rhoades said today.
Cr Rhoades was speaking after incoming Federal Member for North Sydney, Trent Zimmerman, conceded the role the State Government’s amalgamation plans had played in a 14% swing against the party in one of its safer seats.
“Mr Zimmerman also noted that the swing against the Liberals at Saturday’s by-election was particularly strong in Hunters Hill, where the community is bitterly opposed to its council being forcibly merged by the Baird Government,” Cr Rhoades said.
“It is a timely reminder to Premier Mike Baird, Local Government Minister Paul Toole and every other Coalition MP in NSW that communities are angry about any attacks on local democracy, and they won’t hesitate to hand out punishment to those
who push ahead with this plan.”
Cr Rhoades said Mr Zimmerman’s primary vote of 47.6% was amongst the lowest ever recorded for the Liberals in the electorate, where – until Saturday - the primary vote had only ever dipped below 50% three times since the Liberal Party was formed in 1944.
“The take-out from Saturday’s by-election is that people power works,” he said.
“I’m urging all communities and councils opposed to forced amalgamations to contact their local MPs, MLCs and Senators to remind them of the likely political cost that will be extracted if the Baird Government acts contrary to the wishes of residents and ratepayers.”
Cr Rhoades said the North Sydney backlash was not unexpected, with major media outlets last week tipping a significant swing against the Liberals as a result of the proposed forced mergers.
“We also have statistically verified polling conducted earlier this year that found less than 18% of the population supports the forced mergers proposed by the Government,” he said.
“Meanwhile, more than 80% expressed support for their councils continuing to stand alone, and of these some 61% selected stand-alone status as their first preference.
“The majority of residents and ratepayers feel that their local Council is doing a good job and they have concerns that the proposed Mega Councils will not have capacity to address local issues.
“Local Government is the only way the majority of ordinary individuals can have a direct input into the future of their neighbourhoods and the way they live their lives – and they don’t want any sphere of Government riding roughshod over this right.
“And they don’t want to be forced to give way to big developers, or to see their lifestyles impacted by decisions into which they have no meaningful input.”
Cr Rhoades said a quick scan of the electoral pendulums for both the NSW and Federal Parliaments shows a number of Coalition electorates with margins of less than 14%.
“Those MPs with an eye on their own re-election would be taking a keen interest in the North Sydney result, so it’s important that communities and councils make their position very clear as soon as possible,” he said.
“The Government would be wise to heed this expression of public opinion, and to think twice before they force financially sustainable Councils to merge against community wishes.”
Media Enquiries
LGNSW President, Cr Keith Rhoades AFSM: 0408 256 405
Media Toni Allan 0412 774 441