Last weekend’s local government elections should be taken as a serious wake-up call for both the major parties.
Yes, Labor was hit hard, but the Liberals failed to reap the gains they expected.
The rush of votes to the Greens and independents shows the people of NSW are apprehensive about having either of the majors in power, with much of that anxiety focused on the right wing factions who’ve stacked and dealt their way to the top of both parties.
On Labor’s side it’s the developers’ mates and career politicians that smell, while on the Liberals’ it’s the Bible-thumping wowsers beholden to big business.
Postal votes are still to be counted and preferences calculated, but at this stage the Greens look set to grab upwards of 70 seats on councils across the state, with at least 15 of these new councillors and many in areas that have never seen Greens representation before.
The Greens have always said that they’re not just about keeping the bastards honest -” but replacing them.
Having made themselves the largest party on council in Byron, Marrickville and Leichhardt (where they look set to hold a majority of councillors for the first time) they can say they’ve truly started down that road.
In a slew of others they’re now the second largest party, with the Greens either out-polling Liberals in Labor-held seats or out-polling Labor in Liberal areas.
It’s now up to the Greens to prove themselves a party that can govern responsibly in their own right, not just oppose things or act as a goalkeeper, and it may prove a tricky balance to deliver on all their promises while maintaining the services that ratepayers expect and keeping council budgets balanced. Inevitably, compromises will have to be made.
Undoubtedly many of these new councillors will also stand as candidates in 2011 and will be making the most of this opportunity to get their faces known and build a rapport with voters. They should tread very carefully -” with the Government on notice to the party’s rise and a credible chance of taking both the Deputy Premier’s seat and that of Education Minister, Verity Firth, any mistakes will be pounced on.
In the City of Sydney let’s hope that a resounding return for Clover Moore and her team will deliver speedy implementation of plans to re-brand Oxford St as a gay precinct and tackle homophobic violence. The community is watching and complacency here will not deliver her a third term with all parties on council now prepared to court the gay vote.