Liverpool City Council Staffing


Mr NATHAN HAGARTY (Leppington) (20:56): I speak about grave concerns with the management of Liverpool City Council under CEO John Ajaka. The separation of elected politicians from the public service is a fundamental principle of the Westminster system and our democracy. The politicians make the decisions, and the public servants enact those decisions and give advice without fear or favour. The system works only when everyone performs their role clearly and with impartiality. That is why I am concerned about a succession of media reports calling into question the political independence of the senior staff at Liverpool Council. Late last yearThe Australian reported on the shocking revelations that no fewer than seven senior staff members on the Liverpool council’s payroll have Liberal affiliations: former Liberal members of Parliament, councillors, staffers and local factional heavyweights, including the CEO, John Ajaka.

Mr Ajaka is a former Liberal President of the Legislative Council. Soon after he left the other place in 2021, he was employed as the CEO of Liverpool City Council, on an estimated annual salary of over $500,000. Ajaka’s former parliamentary colleague Shayne Mallard too has been given safe harbour with Liverpool City Council. Initially employed as a senior adviser to the CEO, Mallard has now been appointed as the director of city futures, another job that attracts a six-figure salary. Further, former Liberal Liverpool councillor Tony Hadchiti has been employed in a senior role as the coordinator of the fast-developing area of Austral.

A former staffer of Mr Ajaka, Haris Strangas, works in a senior governmental advisory role. He is the president of the Miranda and Cook Young Liberals and a Liberal councillor on Sutherland Shire Council. Despite Strangas being in this government advisory role, the Liverpool council recently resolved to spend $100,000 of ratepayers’ money to employ an external consultant to lobby the State Government for more infrastructure. As I said in media reports at the time, the CEO and the council have no interest in advocating for Austral and would rather palm their jobs off to an overpaid lobbyist. That said, given Strangas’s title as a government adviser, what is Strangas’s actual job? Further, three senior communications staff members are former staff of the New South Wales Liberal Party and Liberal Ministers.

While that pattern of hiring is cause for concern, it is compounded by reports of what some have called a council within a council. Councillors outside of that exclusive inner sanctum have reported to me that they are the last to know about major announcements, briefings and other critical information that is important to their statutory obligations as councillors. Further, they are cropped out of photos and left out of important media opportunities. I am sure it comes as no surprise to most that the clique is composed of Liberal and conservative councillors. That just does not pass the pub test.The Australian has reported that an investigation was recently commenced by the Office of Local Government [OLG] into the concerning allegations about staff at Liverpool council, and I eagerly await the findings of that probe.

Disturbingly, that is not the end of the story. In recent weeks it has come to light that Mr Ajaka was present at the Liberal preselection for former Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s seat of Cook. That rules out any plausible deniability that Mr Ajaka is involved in the inner workings of the local Liberal Party. He has long been and clearly continues to be a faceless man of the Liberal Party. There is nothing necessarily wrong with that, but it is clearly inappropriate and unacceptable that such a person should also be the CEO of a local council. I look forward to the results of the OLG investigation, but I am concerned that what has been reported in the media is just the tip of the iceberg. I encourage all those with knowledge of wrongdoing at Liverpool council to speak up. It is only through the disinfectant of transparency that those issues can be resolved for the good of the people of Liverpool.

Link to Parliament of NSW Hansard Document.

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