When I moved to Redfern with my family in the 1970s, the area was bleak and neglected. There were no trees and too much traffic. The few parks were asphalt and barbed wire, and locked at night. A local alderman told me that Council couldn’t plant grass because “you wouldn’t be able to see the broken glass”.
While many people took the option to move out, I took up my first petition and began action for change. I lobbied Council for more grass and trees, tackled traffic and pollution, organised a baby-sitting group, joined a vegetable co-op, and helped set up East Redfern Community Concern.
My work continues to be driven by the same goals that encouraged me to enter political life: protecting our environment and the public estate, promoting social justice and inclusion, as well as open government and your democratic right to be involved in decisions that affect you.
I co-authored the Charter of Reform, the most radical Westminster government reform agenda proposed in the last century, aimed at opening up political decision making, increasing scrutiny of public administration, making government information more accessible, protecting whistleblowers and strengthening the independence of the Auditor General, Judiciary and Ombudsman.
Consultation and public participation
I keep you informed and involved in issues and decisions that affect you.
I have sent over 500 weekly email newsletters updating subscribers on my work as your elected representative and have maintained a detailed website since 1999. You receive regular newsletters from me as State MP and from the City of Sydney.
In Parliament, I led opposition to the erosion of our rights to be involved in major planning and development decisions, and the reduction of environmental and heritage safeguards. The State Government took control of key sites such as Barangaroo, Caritas and CUB, while the Redfern-Waterloo Authority removes a huge area from local planning control.
At the City of Sydney, our projects include careful consultation, with numerous architecture, design and landscaping awards attesting to the quality outcomes. Sustainable Sydney 2030 involved the most extensive program of public consultation every undertaken by the City, with 12,000 people directly consulted and thousands more accessing the website and displays.
Open and Accountable Government
Access to Government information is a democratic right to enable public scrutiny of decisions.
My open government legislation to disclose major government contracts became law in 2006. Developed to avoid a repeat of the secretive Cross city Tunnel deal, it required contracts worth over $5 million to be released and information about smaller contracts to be made public.
Unfortunately, the Government again manipulated commercial-in-confidence exemptions to hide critical financial details of the Barangaroo contracts. I resigned from the Barangaroo Delivery Authority after the State Government failed to ensure accountability, transparency and consultation during the development process.
The City of Sydney makes most public information routinely available, with thousands of requests responded to free of charge each year. Contracts over $150,000 are listed on the City website.
Social justice and equality
I strive to serve all people in our diverse inner city area with equality.
I support vulnerable people in our community, providing a practical and compassionate response to complex problems such as homelessness, mental health and addition. After hearing from families of people addicted to drugs at the 1999 Drug Summit, I moved the successful motion to set up the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre—which finally become permanent in 2010.
My Same Sex Adoption Bill has now become law, allowing same sex couples to adopt their children. My first try in 2000 got no support in parliament. I persisted and this time gained majority support in a conscience vote. My 1993 Homosexual Anti-Vilification Bill made it illegal to incite hatred.
Only Independent members in the Legislative Assembly voted against fundamental changes to our democracy, including using the threat of terrorism to justify detention of people who haven’t committed a crime, and allowing courts to accept majority jury verdicts.