Yesterday I welcomed 17 new Australian citizens from 14 countries at our Australia Day citizenship ceremony in Hyde Park. The new Australians join people from over 200 nationalities living within the City of Sydney whose language, culture and history have enriched our national identity.
I spent the afternoon at Victoria Park celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Yabun festival. The first Yaxbun was held in Redfern Park and the event continues to present the very best of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures to an ever-growing audience.
This week I am finalising my submission on the State Government's discussion paper, Dual Roles: Councillors as Members of Parliament in NSW, ahead of the close of submissions next Tuesday.
Since the introduction of representative government in NSW in 1856, voters have had the option to elect the same person to represent them in state and local government. The State Government proposes to legislate to abolish this right for party political reasons.
The proposal, if adopted, continues State contempt for local governmentâ€”forcing by-elections or leaving affected councils to operate with reduced quotas of councillors, with the potential to change the balance of power and circumvent the will of the voters.
Surely the NSW Government should be focusing on the many problems they promised to fix and not working to limit the public's choice and reduce local representation. My submission strongly supports maintaining the longstanding position of an individual being able to serve as a local government Councillor and a Member of Parliament.
Since 2004, Sydney voters have re-elected me every two years in the full knowledge of my dual roles. These repeated endorsements recognise the effective action I can take at both levels on issues such as light rail, enabling the introduction of small bars (we now have 45 just in the City of Sydney), and addressing problems caused by backpacker car sales in Kings Cross.
At a time when voters want to see action, my combined roles reduce duplication and allow me to efficiently and effectively represent our community. There is increasing recognition we are over governed with three tiers of government for a small population. After being elected Lord Mayor in 2004 I established the Lord Mayor's Salary Trust which has so far enabled me to donate nearly one million dollars to charity.
If such a major reshaping of our political system was to go ahead, the community deserves the right to make this decision through a referendum.
I urge you to make a submission before the closing date, Tuesday, 31 January.
On Sunday we hold our fourth annual Chinese New Year Twilight Parade to mark the beginning of the Year of the Dragon. I hope you will be there to cheer on our Parade entrants, including a contingent from Chengdu, China, who are bringing a giant panda float, groups from Beijing, and fabulous floats from local Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese communities. The Parade starts outside Town Hall with an eye dotting ceremony before continuing along George, Goulburn, Sussex, Hay and Harbour Streets to Chinatown.
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