No obligation on the State Government to have local government

Letters to the editor

Robert Findley’s contention that the swing against the Turnbull Government can be attributed to LGA amalgamations (“Listen to the people”, 14/7/16) doesn’t seem to be based on any factual knowledge.

In fact, pre-polling found conclusively that the amalgamations were not a factor in voter thinking, apart from a cynical view of Baird’s cancellation of amalgamations in a number of marginal Liberal seats, opprobrium he could have avoided, since the action seems to have been unnecessary. If there was any impact of the issue, one would have expected it to manifest itself in Gosford, but the sitting member has been returned with a minimal swing against, and that can easily be attributed to other local issues. As for the argument that it was undemocratic for the State Government to decide on amalgamations without a referendum, the first point to be made is that local government is a creature of the State.

There is no obligation on the State Government to have local government at all, and the provisions of the Local Government Act give the Minister the power to act as he did, without any need for consultation. As our Prime Minister is fond of reminding us, governments are elected to govern and not to bend to every passing fancy of the electorate (except in the case of marriage equality, of course), and it is absurd to suppose that any government should call a referendum on every administrative decision it makes (the result would be governmental paralysis). In a parliamentary system, the recourse of anyone disgruntled with a governmental decision is at the next ballot box.

We witnessed the same violent protestation during the signifi cant amalgamations of the 1940s, but none of the dire predicted consequences came to pass, the local government machinery rolled on, and hardly anybody even remembers the shape of local government prior to that time. It is amusing that much of this year’s most vocal opposition came from councils that only exist because of those previous changes, yet we are asked to believe that the present system was created so perfect that any further changes must result in the collapse of society, the reduction of the populace to serfdom and the institution of a permanent dictatorship of the unelected. I predict that, by September 2017, nobody will even remember what the fuss was about.

As for the point made by Vic Wulf (“Why sack people and then re-hire them?”), I am sympathetic to his view that most of these people probably weren’t worth electing in the first place, but, since they were elected and have been displaced by ukase (not for any particular wrongdoing, as he seems to imply), asking them for advice (most of which, it is to be hoped, the administrator won’t take), is a reasonable palliative political manoeuvre to salve injured feelings. My only fear is that many of these people will stand again and could easily be elected to the Central Coast Council next year, proving that the electorate likes complaining about councillors’ performance but hasn’t the imagination to envision an alternative.

Email, Jul 19, 2016 Bruce Hyland, Woy Woy.

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