Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Speech on the O'Farrell Government's 'Get Clover' Bill

3 April 2012
Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY (Heffron) [11.51 a.m.]: "I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it." That statement, often mistakenly attributed to Voltaire, was in fact made by his biographer. However, the bill before the House today puts me in a Voltaire-ish frame of mind. That great defender of democracy, Voltaire, would be appalled by legislation of the type being debated in this House today. That quote also puts me in this frame of mind today, because quite frankly I have never supported the member for Sydney in a campaign; in fact, I have supported candidates against her in local council and State elections—and I will do so again.

Just as Voltaire's biographer said, "I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it," I do not agree with much of what the member for Sydney might argue for. But there are some things that I do agree with; in fact, there are some things on which we have cooperated. I do not necessarily agree with everything the member argues for in this place. But I absolutely recognise and respect the mandate that the member has from her community to represent them at both the State and the local level. This person has been elected by her community, at State and local level, time and again since 2004, to represent them at town hall as their Lord Mayor and to represent them in this Chamber as the member for Sydney.

Make no mistake: this bill will undo a democratic decision of the people of the City of Sydney and of the constituents in the State electorate of Sydney. This Government is led by a Premier who said before the election—if he said it once, he said it a hundred times—"We in the Liberal and National parties trust local communities; we trust local people to get it right; we trust people to make decisions for themselves." How has that trust been repaid? How is that trust expressed? How is that trust demonstrated by the O'Farrell Government? It brings into this House legislation that will undo a democratic decision taken by the people of the City of Sydney and by the people of the State electorate of Sydney.

This is an appalling piece of legislation. What it says to the people, not just of Sydney but of New South Wales, is that they can no longer have confidence that their opinion, their verdict, their will expressed through the ballot box will be upheld by the laws of this State. This Parliament is asked to do what I have not seen in my nine years in this place: in an affront to democracy, it will overturn a result rendered by the people. Voltaire spoke of respect for democracy. We are a democratic society: we uphold freedom of speech; we uphold freedom of assembly; we uphold freedom of expression; and we uphold the freedom of the people to choose their representatives—until today. Today, that right ends. Today, the right of the people to have their will expressed at the ballot box is overturned. This is a sham. It is a shame.

I want to speak about dual roles. I can speak from a fair bit of experience; I know what it is like to be a senior Minister and the local member; I know what it is like to be the Premier and the local member. Let me say for anyone on the Government side who does not understand: When you are a Minister and a local member you have dual roles, and sometimes they conflict. We had a ridiculous contribution by the member for Drummoyne who spoke about the supposed conflict in being the Lord Mayor and a local member. He shows his naivety by not understanding that sometimes your role as a Minister and your role as a local member conflict; sometimes your role as Premier and your role as a local member conflict.

Nonetheless, you are able to discharge those roles; you are able to manage those roles; and you can, as the member for Sydney has pointed out, use the efficiencies built into being a Minister and the local member to better serve the people of New South Wales. That is exactly what the member for Sydney and Lord Mayor is doing. I have yet to have anyone explain to me the difference between being the Minister for Local Government and the member for Ballina, and being the Lord Mayor of Sydney and the member for Sydney. I have yet to have anyone explain to me how those two sets of circumstances are different in demands on one's time and one's ability to work for one's electorate, or indeed the conflicts that that brings. I have yet to hear from any member of the Liberals and The Nationals any cogent argument as to why there is a difference.

I ask the House to reflect on this. I stand in this place as the member for Heffron. I recognise that my State electorate is covered by four local government areas: Randwick, Botany, Marrickville and the City of Sydney. The majority of the State electorate of Heffron is within the City of Sydney. The people of the City of Sydney, and therefore a large number of the people in the State electorate of Heffron, have cast their vote for Clover Moore to be their Lord Mayor; they have cast their vote for Clover Moore to represent them at town hall. It is my constituents who are seeing their democratic rights denied them. The people of Heffron are seeing in this bill the overturn of their decision that Clover Moore be their Lord Mayor.

Clover Moore has a proud and long history of representing South Sydney. She was first elected to South Sydney Council in 1980. To put that in context, when Clover Moore was elected a councillor New South Wales had not even had its first female Cabinet Minister; that was to come eight years later. Clover Moore, as a female politician, has stood up for her local community; she has stood up and represented South Sydney. Over the years, through various local boundary redistributions, Clover Moore and I have shared parts of the State electorates of Sydney and Heffron. At times, part of the Heffron electorate has been in Clover Moore's electorate.

She has a long tradition of representing the people of Sydney, particularly South Sydney. Although I may not have always agreed with her, I have seen the work she has done as both Lord Mayor and as member for Sydney bring benefits to the people who live in my electorate. She has brought benefits in improved parks and facilities, and she has championed more equality and greater legal rights for people who are gay and lesbian. She has brought a change in the way government delivers services to some of the most vulnerable people in the community, particularly people with drug and alcohol addictions. In the two roles she holds the member for Sydney has effectively represented the people of Sydney and, particularly from my perspective, the people of South Sydney.

As we watch this Liberals-Nationals Government deny democracy and deny the will of the people as expressed at the ballot box—and overturn the will of the people as expressed at the ballot box—we see a dark day for democracy in this State. I have recently nominated the Lord Mayor to be the Heffron electorate's nominee for the Women's Honour Roll, introduced by the Minister for Women. Due to the quirks of boundary redistribution Clover Moore lives in the State seat of Heffron: I am her local member. I am very proud that we have in our electorate a woman who is a game-changing politician, a woman who was the first elected female Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney and a woman who has effectively earned the trust of the people of Sydney to represent them at both State and local levels. It is a sad day indeed to see that trust being broken by the O'Farrell Government. If this bill passes it condemns this House. It is a mockery of democracy and it should be opposed.


  1. A fine speech. Many thanks. I hope Clover Moore continues as Mayor and continues the greening of the City, including making it less automobile dominated.

  2. Very well said and exactly right. It is a sad day for New South Wales with this reprehensible bill being passed. Is it any wonder that politicians are so distrusted by the people who elect them. They say one thing in opposition and do another when in power, not to do the best thing for the state and its people, but in an effort to bolster and hold on to that power

  3. Thanks for that great speech. Could someone explain to me why they want to do this? Is it some mad point of principle? A personal vendetta? It seems a big hit to democracy for very little gain in Sydney or elsewhere. Clover will likely stay on to contest the Local council, in which she will now have matyr status, and the Libs will never get near winning the seat of Sydney after this. For the government it seems all pain and no gain.