Home > Current Affairs, The EYE-BALL Herman O'HERMITAGE > EYE-BALL’s Herman on – A Microcosm of Our Democracy – Auburn City Council elections.

EYE-BALL’s Herman on – A Microcosm of Our Democracy – Auburn City Council elections.

September 18, 2012
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Links to Previous ‘Herman’ Posts:
28th Aug – – 2012 Overture – The Northern Fall (Autumn) –


17th Aug:  – A Political Alternative – Australian Community Party –


Aug 6th:   – Shang Yang’s good governance – or is it good faith?


July 21st:   –  Micro Economics – Thoughts and opinions on the Energy Debate!!!


July 18th:   –  A Chronology of Farce – and of a Government who Wonders Why Their Opinion Polls are so low.


July 4th:   –  2012 Overture – The Northern Summer Arrives –


June 16th:   2012 Overture – The Greek Elections


June 2nd:   Creative Destruction …


May 26th:   White Collar Crime – Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper … or just Federal Parliament?


May 17th:   The 2012 Overture Act III


Apr 23rd:   An update on the French Presidential elections and other


Apr 21st:   A Philosophical Appraisal of Social Economic Index… to Capture Wider Social Well Being.


Mar 26th:   The 2012 Overture – A Crappy New Year – Part III.


Feb 14th: Democrazy Part XV – Clinging to Power.


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Title:
A Microcosm of Our Democracy – Auburn City Council elections.

| Author: EYE-BALL’s Herman | 18th Sep 2012 |
Last Friday at about 11.30am the Electoral Commission of NSW declared the result of the Auburn City Council election conducted on the previous Saturday. The Auburn City Council is in Sydney’s Western Suburbs and the electoral boundary map is available here.

Auburn City Council includes the new developments of Wentworth Point, the Olympic Village areas now called Newington, the Rookwood Cemetery (or Necropolis if you prefer), Sydney’s Silverwater Remand Centre and older residential areas (once famously labelled by Roy Masters in Rugby League history as the fibros) of Lidcombe, Regents Park and Berala. Some of those fibro suburbs like Sefton, Granville or the Railway yards of Clyde are in adjacent Councils. There are approx 42,000 registered electors in Auburn Council’s 2 Wards.

Wentworth Point and Newington do not have the same social demographic as the other areas of the Council areas. Your average unit on water front (Parramatta River) Wentworth Point sells for $800,000, whereas your free standing home in Berala would be cheaper. In as much Regents Park has a constituency from the sub-continent, and the other predominant migrant mixes are Chinese, Korean, and Middle Eastern, (Turks, Lebanese etc). In the suburb of Auburn is Australia’s largest mosque, the Gallipoli Mosque, which is reverentially named to reflect Australia’s failed Turkish invasion in World War I at Gallipoli.

Background Considerations

Prior to this election Councillor Le Lam was dis-endorsed by the Unity Party. The Unity Party ran a ticket of 5 alternative candidates lead by Rebecca Ye against Ms Lam. Ms Lam in First Ward was on a ticket of 5 prospective councillors and a running mate in Second Ward of Dennis Yu supported on his ticket by another 4 prospective Councillors

It is difficult to understand how the Liberals supplied the former Mayor with only 2 of the 10 pre-existing councillors, unless he was elected under rotation and/or with the support of Independents (including Unity Party).

There was also scuttlebutt that the Council had reported the General Manager of Auburn City Council to ICAC, and the Administration (General Manger-John Burgess) had reported the Council to ICAC, (according to some sources to stop the general manager from being sacked).  The matters before ICAC are not easy to establish as investigations continue. Moreover relationships were dysfunctional between Administration and Mayor.

Beyond this there was unrest about how multi storey buildings were being erected in John St, Lidcombe irrespective of current height restrictions.  There are 3 major supermarkets in the entire locality, a Woolworths and Coles at Auburn Central and a new Woolworths at Berala. Parking is not easy at Auburn Central therefore most residents find themselves shopping at Westfield Parramatta or Centro at Bankstown.

The two wards of Auburn were the most hotly contested elections of the 253 councils up for re-election this year. One council had more candidates than the 87 of Auburn but were electing more positions; therefore pro rata Auburn had the most candidates (8.7) for each councillor position to be elected.

Another independent prospective Councillor, Mr Salim Mehajer was facing negligent driving charges in Burwood Court on September 10, 2012 (next business day after the poll) where that story is reported at http://www.news.com.au/top-stories/women-injured-in-ferrari-crash/story-e6frfkp9-1226246945877

The outcome of the trial is available at;

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/sydney-news/court-to-rein-in-500000-ferrari-driver-salim-mehajer/story-e6freuzi-1226472129615

The Mehajer family Company profile is available http://www.sydneygroup.com.au/

The election results:

First Ward (in order of being declared)

  • Ronney OUEIK (LP), returned – Former Mayor
  • Hicham ZRAIKA (ALP), returned
  • Semra BATIK (RAGAA – Residents Action Group for Auburn Area), replacing Teresa De Paolo ALP who defected to RAGAA and was 2nd on the new ticket.
  • Le LAM (Independent), returned (previously Unity Party)
  • Salim MEHAJER (Independent), replacing Izzet Anmak – Independent

Second Ward (in order of being declared)

  • Ned ATTIE (LP) returned
  • George CAMPBELL (ALP) replaces Patrick Curtin ALP
  • Irene SIMMS (RAGAA)returned
  • Steve YANG (LP)replaces Jack Au (Unity Party)
  • Tony OLDFIELD (Independent – Battler Group) replaces Malikeh Michaels (Greens)

The Story as related by an AEC Employee:

This story began on Thursday 23rd August 2 weeks and 2 days before Election Day when Mr Dennis Yu – Councillor Candidate, brought in 3 electioneering posters to the NSW Electoral Office and claimed they had been defaced on private property.

Mr Yu was accompanied by a woman and claimed to have video evidence of the act of vandalism and wanted the Returning Officer to take action. He was advised to take the matter to the Auburn Police (Flemington Local Area Command).

On Monday August 27th pre polling started.  There were reports that Unity and dis-Unity (Independent) candidates or their scrutineers were dragging people off the street (total strangers), to get them to vote for them. Their registered scrutineers were allowed in the polling place under electoral commission rules.

Next a scrutineer of one of the Unity or dis-Unity groups committed an electoral crime by watching over an elector’s shoulder while he voted and bothered the voter to change his vote.  That scrutineer was ordered from the premises and not allowed to return.

At about 4.30pm on the Wednesday 29th August,  an incident occurred outside the polling place reported in Sydney’s Morning Herald a week later at;

http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/local-elections-turn-nasty-as-allegations-fly-20120903-25ayj.html

That report by the Herald is adequate but fails to mention how Ms Rebecca Ye was walking around the outside of the polling place filming (harassing and threatening) candidates including Ms Le Lam or Mr Dennis Yu.

The ‘intimdation’ was reported to the police at the time of the incident.  The police did not arrive until the next morning having stated on the evening of the alleged assault that they were busy and would get there when they got there.

After an arrest, Auburn police command ordered regular drive by’s with squad cars and therefore on that next day, 10 officers in 4 different patrols entered the polling place to ensure good order. The State Electoral Commission ordered a permanent private security presence for the remainder of the pre polling.

The Local Rag; the ‘Auburn Review’ on Tuesday 4th of September ran an article where a police spokesperson was attempting to show the police correctness in their actions (or in this case lack thereof).

In the reports the name calling amongst nominee councillors as “Criminals” I interpret to mean corrupt but spoken by people with a rather limited grasp of English.

The security presence and its cost meant the Auburn City Council ratepayer’s funds were being used to protect those electors from their prospective councillors. Sadly the candidates and their workers did not know or care about how they were bringing council into disrepute.

This was a pattern that continued throughout the pre poll period. While matters quietened down somewhat voters would routinely enter the polling place complaining about the electioneering outside. They would express exasperation.

You don’t see anything of them until they want your vote. They often stated they did not want to vote for any of them but were scared of the $55 fine for failing to vote. One elector asked – ‘how do I get myself off the electoral role’. He was told by being imprisoned for 12 months or certified or possibly dementia would get him removed from the electoral role. Of course there are other ways, but each adds complications. We live in a country of compulsory voting.

There were many other bits and pieces which are subsumed in the grand order of things. Possibly they await a day in the Court of Disputed Returns.

For instance one candidate made allegations to police that the Returning Officer had made threatening calls corruptly, telling the candidate to withdraw from the election or the candidate would be killed. To the best of my knowledge police investigations continue.

I have no doubt the Returning Officer is simply not capable of such an act, it is totally out of character.  More importantly without corruption what could be a possible motive.   The candidate may well have ulterior motive. The sad part is how innocent people get subsumed in this tawdry mess and the methods and actions of the police are also called into question.

The entire episode raises far too many issues, but the loudest is “What is at stake?”

Conclusion:

The Council is largely ceremonial, where most functionality of Council matters resides with bureaucracy rather than elected officials. The incumbent Mayor was powerless during the alleged assault and it is difficult to fully comprehend the ancillary allegations. What do the Councillors do beside approve Development Applications and cut ribbons, turn first sods and become patrons of local groups? (This intones that brown envelopes do accompany development applications!)

Why does NSW have so many tiny (and insignificant) local councils? They are at odds to economic theory on economies of scale, and leave issues such as commuter parking and public transport to monoliths like Macquarie St. (The railway station at Olympic stadium linked to Lidcombe Railway is under–utilised and another white elephant (in commission only for major sporting events or the 2 weeks of the annual RAS show).

Lidcombe and Auburn railway stations are poorly serviced by trains due to express trains from Richmond, Blacktown and the Blue Mountains being express from Parramatta to Strathfield. What will fix transport issues for such an integral part of greater Sydney? The State seat of Auburn remains one of the few Labor seats after the ALP were crushed at the state poll last year.

The Battler Group 5th elected official in second Ward ran on a platform of creating a third (separate) ward for Wentworth Point (and possibly Newington). Utter nonsense.

A third of the Council would include all of Silverwater (industrial area) and cross over Parramatta Rd into the older parts. The residents of Wentworth Point want to go into Strathfield Council or City of Canada Bay. (Different demographic v proportion of rates, income equation). What constitutes a City?

First ward formal votes were slightly over 70% with a participation factor closer to 80% (about 10% informal). Second Ward substantially better with about 77% formal and close to 84% participation. It makes you really dwell on compulsory voting and the real donkey vote, those who don’t care but simply vote to avoid a fine (thereby nullifying the vote of those who do care or believe).

Auburn City Council is not alone in this degradation of common decency and respect for its constituency. At Ashfield Council they had a woman, Vittoria Raciti, standing for Council on a platform of family values, where she is the landlord of a known Haberfield brothel, and to which she denies all knowledge.  Her running mate is the notorious Julie Passas (former Councillor) who was mentioned several times in State Parliament regarding her antics of intimidation.  There are other reports regarding other councils in this local council election.

Of the 253 locality elections contested earlier this month 24 councils were elected unopposed, mainly in country shires. The Auburn City Council election was budgeted at somewhere around $250,000. The actual cost is not yet publicly known.  Where the previous election in 2008 was $270,000 the costs were micro managed to achieve this outcome. The itinerant staff were denied proper conditions and rewards.  An example is despite hours worked, time sheets were manipulated to deny office assistants a meal money allowance after working a 9.5 hour day, and excess times were entered on other days to avoid penalty rates. This has the effect that in future the better staff will take any polling place position rather than work in the office on Election Day or simply not want to work at all.

Despite the Act requiring an Office Manager and Returning Officer team at every returning office, many Office Managers quit early on and were not replaced.  No extra allowance was made for other staff to cover in the process.

In the case of Glenn Innes Shire, when the Returning Officer walked off the job on election eve there was no natural replacement available and another had to be sourced from out of the area. This is partly a function of the Electoral Commission of NSW as agent conducting the election of Councillors on behalf of Council.

The elements of democracy are now monetised. There is no transparency. When financial reports of the payee (council) and agent (Electoral Commission) are available would it be possible to reconcile the two?

In the case of Auburn returning Office being located at the old Lidcombe RSL building that was because Council owned the building. Many voters asked why was pre poll now located at Lidcombe rather than traditional Auburn Central?

Simple answer – cost and perceived benefits of dedicated parking were not apparent as electioneering signs covered all disabled parking spots and there was no obvious authority to regulate parking.

Today as the world tries to come to terms with the sixth pillar of Islam, Jihad, most of us are simply confused by our own local news. Multi-culturalism is only one tiny part.  Moralising is easy.

Believing in Sanity is itself Insanity.


EYE-BALL’s ‘Herman’ …


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