Pollie Crackers

By necessity this column was prepared before the outcome of last weekend’s Cootamundra State seat by-election.

Whilst the outcome was unknown to me at the time of writing, a betting man might wager a decent sum on the result, however voters may have any of the six candidates in mind with some new contenders listed on the ballot paper.

A cataclysmic result as occurred in the earlier Orange by-election is highly unlikely, especially as the amalgamation heat has settled down around most of the electorate, possibly excluding Harden and certainly Gundagai where feelings still run hot and strong.

Being elected with a large majority must be personally rewarding for the candidate and the successful party, but it may not always be a good thing for the electorate.

It often means that the government of the day gives projects within the electorate a lower priority than other electorates where the voting margin is closer.

It also means that the opposition doesn’t even try as they know they can’t bridge the gap.

It is a fact of life that Weddin has for yonks been part of a strong coalition seat which has made many grants that much harder to get.

Having said that, it must also be said that the recent flow of grants has been extraordinary. One can only hope they continue.

In the meantime, keep an eye on Orange which must now be considered a contestable seat, and see if the pace picks up.

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Closer to home, the newly elected Hilltops Council is having its initial meetings and sorting out the pecking order.

The new mayor (who was also the former mayor of Young) campaigned on his record of being sacked by the State Government and then by the Administrator, who is now one of the new councillors.

Should make for peace and harmony there.

Another new councillor is a newspaper editor who has made serious allegations about the Administrator and some senior staff over the purchase of a new computer system.

Despite being cleared by ICAC, the Administrator and General Manager were so concerned about the negative effect of the publicity that they engaged an external legal firm to carry out a review of the tender process, with which the editor declined to participate.

The review totally exonerated the accused, but the allegations have yet to be withdrawn.

I’d be surprised if any staff member will want to be seen talking privately with this particular councillor.

Any newly amalgamated council will need all the help and goodwill it can get to manage the teething problems that are bound to occur.

Let’s hope things improve for Hilltops before they get worse.

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Meanwhile further from home, it was interesting to read that the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission has tabled its report into the 2016 local government elections in that state.

Shock! Horror! Things are no better north of the border than down here (particularly in the Sydney metro area anyway).

The CCC report identified widespread non-compliance with the Electoral Act, and made 31 recommendation to government.

The area that caught my eye was the recommendation to prohibit councillors from receiving gifts from property developers.

This is an area of little relevance to rural LGAs like Weddin, but can be a substantial source of revenue in places like the Gold Coast in Qld (or maybe Bankstown in NSW).

As a former local government practitioner, what I find curious in all of this is the great importance that members of state and federal governments place on corruption controls for local government councillors who usually operate at the low end of the scale.

It is broadly accepted that there is corruption in some local governments, but it is not unknown for there to be corruption on a much greater scale at federal and state level.

And the matter of political donations continues to stink up the tent.

To the great benefit of NSW, the ICAC has served a valuable role in investigating possible corruption at state level: the names of Obeid and Macdonald spring readily to mind.

However, there is still no comparable body in Canberra where the greatest temptations must be, for politicians and public servants alike, and donations flow into the coffers unpublicised until the statutory 12 months reporting period expires.

I know I tend to harp on these issues, but that is because I see them as important and very much in the public interest.

Things will not improve until enough well-intentioned people raise their voices demanding action. Feel free to join in.

Feather Duster No 3