Urgent Call to Arms: attack on your voting rights

Below is a statement I made to the media this week on the State Government's plan to ban people serving as both councillor and MP. If this occurs, it would prevent me from seeking re-election as Lord Mayor this year, or force me to resign from Parliament if I again run as Lord Mayor.

I urge you to make a submission on the government discussion paper, "Dual Roles: Councillors as Members of Parliament in NSW". The paper is available from http://bit.ly/yVAQ4t or the Division of Local Government website www.dlg.nsw.gov.au.

Your submission should be sent by 31 January 2012 to: Dual Roles Discussion Paper, Division of Local Government, Locked Bag 3015, Nowra NSW 2541, email: dlg@dlg.nsw.gov.au or fax: 02 4428 4199.

I strongly support maintaining the longstanding position of an individual being able to serve as a local government Councillor and a Member of Parliament.

Preventing MPs from continuing to serve as Councillors would have a severe impact on local representation. By-elections are no longer required where Council vacancies occur 18 months before the next Council election - this means communities could have their representation reduced for almost 40 percent of a Council's term. More seriously, forcing such vacancies could change the balance on local Councils. A group which failed to gain majority support at the Council elections could find itself in the majority as a result of such vacancies. This would thwart the community's democratic will.

Any discussion about potential conflicts of interest must take into account the many Members of Parliament who have business interests outside their parliamentary careers, as well as the conflicts faced by Ministers in representing their local electorate and executing their responsibilities as Ministers.

Before the last state election, not the Liberal, National or Labor party, nor any of their leaders, raised this as an issue. Instead of focusing on the many problems they promised to fix, the NSW Government is working to limit the public's choice and reduce local representation.

This I believe is a move by the Liberal and National Parties to manipulate democracy for their own partisan interests that will deny the results of democratic elections. The people's will should be all powerful in a democracy, not vested interests of political parties.

Councillors have been able to serve simultaneously as MPs since the start of representative government in NSW in 1856 and the community has frequently elected serving Councillors as MPs. At the 2011 state election, 18 serving Councillors were elected as Liberal and National Party MPs.

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, addressing problems caused by backpacker car sales in Kings Cross and enabling the introduction of small bars.

At a time when voters want to see action, my combined roles are efficient and effective. There is increasing recognition we are over-governed with three tiers of government for a small population. My dual roles reduce duplication and 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.

Through my weekly public email, I have encouraged everyone interested in the wellbeing of our state to make their views heard through making a submission. I will be making my submission available to the community as soon as it is completed.

Clover Moore MP
Lord Mayor of Sydney

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