Paulines’ Comments – Council Meeting 30th September 2015

Paulines’ Comments – Council Meeting 30th September 2015

Pauline Rowe

Pauline Rowe

For once I am actually at a loss for words to start this month’s blog, but let me try with OMG -This stuff just keeps getting better and better (or in some peoples view as I overheard at the previous Council meeting) “can these current Council meetings get any worse” – and in response to that “yes they can” and it did again. Bear with me folks as this is going to be a long blog as the meeting did not finish until approx. 11pm and was carried over to Tuesday night to complete outstanding items. The Agenda and Attachments were even bigger than “War and Peace” if that’s possible and a lot of trees died for this meeting. I will endeavour to cover as much of the highlights (or lowlights) as I can remember.

Firstly let me start by saying it was nice to see so many LCIT members in attendance to see firsthand the frustrations that Peter must endure lately at just about every meeting. Janice, Ellen and I usually attend every meeting, and of late June attends when she can, along with Criss Moore, but tonight we had Robert, Bernard, Michelle, and Michael.

Once again my companion and I arrived right on the dot of 6:00pm to another crowded venue. There were approx. 120 to 130 people there (couldn’t count them all as they were scattered everywhere and again it was standing room only) about 100 were Council workers (still in their work gear). As I had read the agenda previously I did not understand why the crowd again and then I walked inside, there were approx. 50 to 60 white balloons with slogans on them being held by various people with the slogan “ Peter Maatouk for Mayor” on one side and “It is time for Ned Mannoun to go” on the other. At this stage I went outside for some air (code for a cigarette) and whilst out there the security guard and council staff were bringing out the balloons and letting them go up into the sky. I overheard council personnel advising that the Mayor would not proceed with the meeting until all the balloons were taken out of the chamber. Straight away I thought oh oh here we go again. Security was not impressed with the calibre of some of the audience’s behaviour and continued a very watchful eye. To Council’s defence the Council Chambers is not the place for campaign advertising and this is clearly stated in Councils rules of attendance for these meetings. If United Services Union staff were not allowed to have their placard’s on display then nor should anyone else. So with all the balloons disposed of into Liverpool’s skyline the meeting began at approx. 6:10 pm. The crowd was however, very restless.

There were 7 speakers prior to the meeting. – 5 Mayoral Minutes, 5 IHAP Matters, 11 Notices of Motions (raised by Councillors) 12 legal (in confidence) matters and the usual Council agenda.

1st Speaker was Marella Harris well known around Liverpool for championing the fight against an inappropriate school development near her residential area in Hoxton Park. The school, however inappropriate, was built and she is now suffering the inevitable noise she was concerned would happen. It appears that at very early hours of the morning Middle Eastern style music and call to prayers are broadcast by way of a public address system which is loud enough to hear in her house. Marella has lodged several noise complaints with Council only to be advised by a Council Worker that she was wasting their time. To say she was not impressed after a very lengthy and costly battle would be an understatement.

2nd Speaker was Lisa Wooden appealing to the Council to stop the sale of Ferrington Park one of the Pocket Parks in her area. Lisa relayed that the community park is just that and is used extensively by the community; it is a place of meeting neighbours connecting with mothers and a place where children can go and socialise with other children. Lisa put over a very good argument and urged Council to not sell of their parks but to maintain them for all to enjoy.

3rd Speaker was Peter Maatouk (and this was when things got interesting). Let me first state I had briefly met Peter at the last Council meeting and knew nothing of his history with our current Mayor, well I was about to find out in detail. Mr Maatouk conveyed his previous association with Mayor Mannoun in the 2008 Election and made some serious allegations about the Mayors previous role as a Councillor during his last term and many other allegations. I cannot repeat any of these as I have no knowledge of them; however I am sure if people want to know more they could “google” it. During the course of his speech Cllr Stanley called a “point of order” and was concerned statements being made were not Council related and inappropriate. The only comment I can make here was the meeting was beginning to descend into total disorder with members of the audience becoming hostile towards each other. To the Mayors credit he did allow Mr Maatouk to continue, however, he ran out of time and an extension of time was not granted. The audience were not impressed with the lack of continuance and voiced their opinions.
Of particular interest was how Mr Maatouk kept referring to the Mayor as his good friend Nadar which is his birth name, perhaps making reference to his Muslim heritage, and one can only wonder why?
On Mr Maatouk’s comments I will keep my thoughts to myself as I do not know the whole story and there appears to be great animosity there, however, Mr Maatouk received a raucous ovation from the audience.

4th Speaker was Rima Katrib who spoke on the Pump House Coffee Shop in Bigge Park and asked some very pertinent questions relating to costs associated with setting up and why it operated for approx. 10 months without a DA- there were a few more accusations thrown at the Mayor re his use of Council Rangers as his own personal army – again a great deal of animosity there.

5th Speaker was Mr Joseph Rodi with some actual Council business – Mr Rodi called upon Council to get involved in the homeless issue in Liverpool and call in the State Government to investigate “pop up” housing for the homeless.

6th Speaker was again more positive – Ms Melinda Cruz congratulated Cllr Mamone on her NOM for Action Forum for the women of Western Sydney Region and relayed her own achievements in this area.

7th and final speaker and also the youngest speaker of the night Miss Ruby Walker 11 years old from Casula spoke to Council and asked them to leave her community park alone as she enjoyed her park and liked to play outside. For a young lady such as herself to garner the courage to speak at such a volatile Council meeting and in front of all those people was admirable.

And next we come to the start of the actual meeting and those dreaded Mayoral Minutes. As the Mayoral Minutes are rarely added to the agenda I gasp as soon as I hear them start because I never know when they are going to end and tonight was no exception- there were 5 in total taking approx. an hour to read and to discuss ad nauseam and as always there were a couple of controversial issues.

  1. Support and Encouragement of UNSW Landscaping Plans and as always turns into a Notice of Motion, and generally a donation of some kind. Tonight it was support plus $1,000 for prize money. However, at least this time both Cllr Waller and Stanley respectively enquired as to why this matter did not go on the agenda as it did not appear to be urgent. The Mayor could not answer and referred it to Council staff who unfortunately were not able to give a satisfactory answer either, this made the audience respond and the fun continued. NOM carried.
  1. Sister School in Chile – also turned into a NOM for Council to reimburse a teacher (originally from Chile) who paid for a teacher and a student’s air fare to Australia as part of its Sister City Programme. This time Cllr Stanley queried why this donation of sorts was not processed through Councils normal grants policy. Council staff advised it did not meet Councils guidelines of criteria of which Peter Harle again highlighted that Council is not a charity organisation and this was paid at the teacher’s discretion. Cllr Hadchiti defended the Mayor using Mayoral Minutes and this then descended into a lengthy discussion about Local Government rules and procedures and unfortunately, I can honestly say I really miss our Nadia’s input into these meetings either by her presence as a Councillor or in her legal capacity, as the rules appear to be quite ambiguous and are interpreted differently by all parties. – Cllrs Waller and Stanley again challenged the timing of the minutes as it appears the decisions have already been made and we are paying these types of things retrospectively before Councillors even get to discuss and vote.
  1. Moorebank Recycling – (Very similar to Cllr Stanley’s NOM06) – Facility will spoil Georges River Plan – NOM to write to State and delegates authority to CEO to commence legal action and will challenge in LEC. Interesting part of the Mayors NOM is that he suggested Council writes to all affected landowners advising of outcome – (call me cynical but 3 guesses whose photo and name will be on the LCC Letterhead) even though all Councillors are also outraged about the approval of this controversial type of development.
  1. Korean War Memorial – Veterans Association will be unveiling a plinth (memorial) on November 1st at Bigge Park to commemorate Korean War Veterans a NOM to donate $3.5k to cover costs– Peter inquired as to the RSL involvement and was advised Council had liaised with RSL – However, again as well intentioned as these Mayoral Minutes and Notices of Motion are by the Mayor they should be shared with other Councillors before the Council Meeting to be discussed.

And now for the juicy one – by this stage 7:35pm Cllr Mamone and Cllr Ristevski arrived.

  1. Parliamentary Privilege – NOM – Similar to Cllr Ristevski’s (NOM03) – On 10th September the Honourable Minister Robert Borsak made some serious personal and professional allegations against Mayor Mannoun and CEO Mr Wulff and in short the Mayor wants Council to publicly condemn Minister Borsak’s attack, he also wants Lawyers representing Council, himself and the CEO to investigate defamation action against Minister Borsak using ratepayer’s money to fight this claim – OK this is where the proverbial really hit the fan. In my personal opinion the claims made against the Mayor and CEO under parliamentary privilege were of a personal nature and not against Council – (I have attached a link so you can make up your own mind) Yes he mentions Liverpool Council but he talks about the people at the top running the Council not the Council directly. Indeed it does bring Liverpool into the media for all the wrong reasons but I think this issue is more about personal defamation versus the whole Council looking inept or corrupt.

https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/HansArt.nsf/V3Key/LC20150910041?open&refNavID=HA8_1 – (link to Hansard Report)

This issue raised a heated debate amongst Councillors (and the audience who threw their two cents worth in). Cllr Shelton (who is a lawyer himself) stated that Mayoral Minutes were not the appropriate action to attack The Honourable Minister Robert Borsak and Council was not the venue – several Liberal Cllrs made statements in defence of the Mayor and spoke against using Parliamentary Privilege to defame others. I personally don’t know where these guys have been hiding because as far back as I can remember Politicians have been defaming each other since the dawn of time using parliamentary privilege all sides Labor, Liberal, Green, Democrats, and Independents alike – Cllr Waller reminded all and sundry that she herself had been defamed during her previous tenure as Mayor and she paid for her own legal costs.

Cllr Stanley stated as she was not a solicitor she was not comfortable with Council being used for this process and she would not be voting on this NOM and would leave the Chamber, a sentiment echoed by Cllr Waller. Cllr Peter Harle raised the point this NOM was along the same lines as Cllr Ristevski NOM and we need to seek legal advice as this is having a detrimental effect on Council. Several Cllrs were not impressed with this NOM along with the audience who also showed their resistance – along with myself at the prospect of Council using rate payers money to fund a legal challenge. True to their word Labor Councillors left the chamber during voting and needless to say the Mayors NOM to use Council resources to investigate legal avenues was passed.

N.B. Interesting side note here for those who have read the minutes of this meeting there happens to be included in the minutes a copy of the correspondence from the Mayor to the Minister for Local Government and yet when our own Peter Harle raised a NOM to include all correspondence in and out from Council in the agenda and minutes it was voted down.

At this stage it was 7:45 pm and the Mayor called a recess of 20 minutes as it was obvious it was going to be a long night.

All these Mayoral Minutes took approx. one hour and although several of them were for good causes, the question must be raised again (as several Councillors did). “Why are there so many Mayoral Minutes raised at the last moment and of late NEVER put on the agenda before the meeting when the majority of them are not urgent? This is constantly a contentious issue for not just Councillors but also residents. Let me explain why… Councillors have to have their Notice of Motions prepared and submitted at least one week ahead of the Council Meeting and about 80% of these Councillors have full time jobs, whereas the Mayor who loves to promote the fact that he is a full time Mayor, surely has more time and access to many staff (four full-time staff for his exclusive use, two research officers, one Policy Adviser and a Personal Assistant) and consequently sufficient time to lodge these NOM’s more than time poor Councillors. Also the fact that Councillors lodge their NOM’s early gives the Mayor’s office time to assess these NOM’s and for want of a better word plagiarise already existing Councillors NOM’s – (talk about stealing other people’s limelight). It appears this is an obvious ploy by his Political Advisers to keep his name associated with all relevant and feel good issues and to keep his name in the media. This was clearly evidenced at this meeting when questioned by other Councillors why the urgency of these Mayoral minutes? (that pretty much always turn into NOM’s) The Mayor could not answer the question but referred to Council Staff.

My main reason for being fed up with these Mayoral Minutes is that they usually take about an hour or so and by that time many audience members have either left or fallen asleep and other Councillors NOM’s are usually not heard or just missed. It also drags the Council Meeting out and many important issues either get passed over quickly or moved to another meeting as is the case with this meeting.

For example we had a couple of gentlemen in front of us who were there specifically to hear the results of one of the IHAP (Independent Hearing Assessment Panel) matters that referred to their development application – It was approx. 9:30 pm before that matter was determined and whilst they enjoyed the preceding events they left straight after their matter.

Now to the Councillors Notice of Motions and again by this time we are starting to get tired and most of the audience has started to dwindle.

Firstly there was a rescission motion re the Interfaith Lunch (talk about starting it off with a doozy) This was a NOM from August Meeting that Council “in short” writes to The Honourable Laurie Ferguson, Federal Member for Werriwa and apologises that he was unable to speak at the event due to time constraints and thanks him for his service to the community. Talk about “putting a cat amongst the pigeons”. There was much debate that Councillors could not make the Mayor say sorry to anyone if he did not want to.

Our own Peter Harle probably made the best statement of the night – Peter stated with words to this effect “With all due respect Mr Mayor you are the spokesperson for this Council whether in good times or bad and in my humble opinion as a matter of courtesy whether it be a Labor, Liberal, Green or any other politician or speaker it is the right thing to do, to apologise for the late notice of his withdrawal for a speaking event on behalf of the Council and Councillors” – This drew a rousing reception from the audience – Well said Peter.

However, needless to say the Rescission Motion passed that the Mayor would not apologise – this is a sign of immaturity and arrogance.

NOM01- raised by Cllr Ristevski – TIMING OF COMMITTEE MEETINGS – that Council investigates holding Council Committee meetings in the night time to allow all working Councillors and working residents the chance to attend – not a bad idea as many years back Council did hold night committee meetings.

NOM02- raised by Cllr Stanley – CONGRATULATE LURNEA HIGH SCHOOL for 50 years – at least a feel good one that passed unanimously

NOM03 – raised by Cllr Ristevski – ruled out of order by the Mayor and withdrawn and the Mayors NOM overruled this.

NOM04 – raised by Cllr Ristevski HOUSING CRISIS – set up a Housing Crisis Taskforce chaired by Cllr Ristevski. This is an issue that is very important to him.

NOM05 – raised by Cllr Ristevski – OPEN COUNCILS SERVICE ON SATURDAY MORNING – Council to investigate feasibility and costs – great idea as not everyone can get to Council during business hours and given the way society is going with 24/7 operations, a sign of keeping up with the times.

NOM06 – raised by Cllr Stanley – MOOREBANK RECYLCLING PLANT – covered in Mayoral Minutes and voted on there.

NOM07 – raised by Cllr Stanley – QUESTIONS REQUIRED RE: PUMP HOUSE COFFEE SHOP– BIGGE PARK – This was an interesting NOM where Cllr Stanley requested information pertaining to this operation as to how it came about costs associated etc., and a report to come back to Councillors, however, unfortunately under confidential cover so we may never get the answers on this one.

NOM08- raised by Cllr Mamone – WOMENS FORUM TO ORGANISE A WOMENS ADVOCACY GROUP – Whilst a great NOM and desperately needed to ensure that more women feel supported in Local Government and other areas of Business it was unfortunate that whilst Cllr Mamone writes a good NOM her public speaking lets her down a little bit and she tended to talk too long on the subject matter. How I gauged this was when I looked at all the male Council staff and male Councillors especially from her own party a majority of them had tuned out.

NOM09 – raised by Cllr Shelton – PROTECTION OF POCKET PARKS – This is indeed an interesting NOM and Cllr Shelton makes some interesting points about the turnaround of Council (or more to the point the Mayor) after listening to the community in selling of our pocket parks. I urge all those interested in protecting our parks to read his NOM in full. Cllr Sheltons’ motion was overturned by a foreshadowed motion by Cllr Hadchiti.

NOM10 – raised by Cllr Harle – AIR QUALITY MONITORING SYSTEMS – Peter has always been concerned with the amount of pollution that recycling, quarries, and intermodal types of developments will have on the air quality around Liverpool, its outer suburbs and rural areas and has raised a NOM for Council to investigate the purchasing of more air quality monitoring systems around Liverpool – Peter spoke to his NOM and while it is a great NOM what was extremely disconcerting and downright disrespectful while Peter was trying to explain his concerns with the air quality in Liverpool several Liberal Councillors were wandering around talking to each other with other things on their mind and the Mayor even left the chamber- seems like pollution in Liverpool is not at the top of their agenda.

NOM11 – raised by Cllr Mamone – RECOVERING OF RESIDENTS PLANS POST 2008 FIRE – A good NOM by all accounts, however, I feel Council staff were very defensive and the responses to Councillors were very sharp. I agree with Cllr Mamone I have heard many people saying they think Council are using the fire in 2008 to not bother looking for their plans or making residents spend unnecessary money having new ones drawn up – Only time will tell on this one – Cllr Stanley also asked some good questions re the same matter in Questions with Notice.

And then to the IHAP matters – A couple of matters were discussed before voting, however, given the amount of work that goes into these IHAP and Council reports not enough as far as I was concerned. IHAP05 was discussed for a while, however, given the bad acoustics in the chamber I was unable to understand what was going on, from what I can garner Council own the land in question and it appeared to be controversial. One good thing the two gentlemen in front of me who had been very patiently waiting had their matter approved and dealt with in a matter of 20 seconds. That entire wait was worth it for them at least.

CORPORATE SPONSORSHIP – The Western Sydney Wanderers sponsorship of $25,000 in previous years was withdrawn from this years recommendation, (Cllr Peter Harle had previously argued strongly against the sponsorship) – it will never stop baffling me why Liverpool Council adopted a club that is fundamentally based and funded by Parramatta business and Council and why Liverpool wants to be associated with an organisation that had one major win in the Asian Cup and was second last in the previous competition. And an organisation that seems to attract some of the worst spectators associated with sports – BEATS ME ???? I note with interest all the benefits LCC would have received with their “sponsorship” is apparently 6 tickets to their games, 4 tickets to other events and an invite for the Mayor to the WSW Ambassador Lounge on 4 occasions – whilst I understand Sponsorship programmes very well having been associated with many from Coles Myer could we not find a local sporting group or our own and in our own backyard?

CEO REPORT – re signage CARNES HILL COMMUNITY CENTRE – (I have to assume the Acting CEO responded to this as the CEO is currently on leave) In short, a complaint was received by the CEO about the signage around this project having the Mayors image on the previous signage and a report was requested to qualify how much all the LCC signage was when it first started – Interesting point in this report was that it states “that at no time did the signage have an image of the Mayor” Well either that is an absolute blatant lie or Council Staff weren’t aware, as I myself drove into Carnes Hill many months ago when work first started and almost had an accident looking at the many, many images of the Mayor on LCC posters, so much so that when I arrived home I personally rang a Councillor and complained about them, unfortunately, I did not take a photo as proof. As any of us who have driven anywhere around Liverpool in the past 12 months knows the Mayor never misses an opportunity to “campaign” by having his photo attached to any project, any media or anything else that will lift his profile. My major problem with this action is that he is not the only Councillor elected to Council and he seems to forget that many of these projects that are coming to fruition now were started in the previous term with a lot of hard work by all Councillors.

And again now to another controversial event of the evening:

Election of Deputy Mayor – this one is very close to home to our own Councillor Peter Harle. Peter performed this role admirably in his previous term as Councillor. Peter is one of the few Councillors who not only attends all Council meetings bar 2 over a 7 year period, all committee meetings he is assigned to as well as many IHAP, JRPP and PAC meetings he can, and over the past 7 years has been the most consistent Councillor attendee to all Council run forums along with many other Council organised functions often in the early part of the Mayors appointment as his replacement if the Mayor did not want to attend. So as the only Independent on Council he nominated himself and spoke to his nomination requesting a Secret Ballot and preferential voting based on discrimination and possible harassment of other Councillors and for a more detailed explanation of this process Peter has posted his comments on our website www.lcit.com.au Needless to say Peter only garnered one vote as both political factions naturally voted for their own candidate and surprise surprise with the majority numbers a Liberal Councillor again became Deputy Mayor. Cllr Hadchiti was elected for the final 12months of Council and I have no beef with this as he also previously served as Deputy Mayor in the former Council term and did a good job. What I do have a problem with if indeed the Mayor had agreed to a secret ballot the numbers might have been a bit different.

CF04- APPOINTING COUNCILLORS TO COMMITTEES –

Again this is much skewed to whoever has the balance of power in Councils and tonight was no exception with some of the more prestigious and high profile committees being awarded to Liberal Councillors. – Peter again has been appointed to 12 Committees and as always will attend each and every one as often as he can. However, I have a major concern with 2 of the appointed committee members to the JRPP. The Joint Regional Planning Panel is very much a high profile and controversial planning body that deals with some very controversial and complicated development applications (such as Cemeteries/Quarries and large scale developments. The criteria for Councillors to serve on this panel are:

“Councillors must have expertise in one or more of the following areas: planning, architecture, heritage, environment, urban design, land economics, traffic and transport, law, engineering or tourism. Expertise may be demonstrated by formal qualifications or relevant skills, knowledge and practical experience.”

And no offence intended to the two Councillors appointed but I don’t believe either of them have sufficient experience or planning knowledge to represent the community or residents’ concerns to the fullest. Peter is an alternative on this panel and has been for many years he is not just an engineer by profession along with academic qualifications but has vast knowledge and previous experience in planning matters and so for that matter are several of the Labor Councillors. In this case I would like to see the right people for the job in the interest of the community versus party favours. .

CFO25 – COUNCIL TRANSPARENCY – I won’t bore you with this one as it is very long winded and constituted almost 43 pages of attendance records from Councillors and the Mayor at meetings and committees going back to 2012 – very interesting reading if you want the numbers plus page 213 of the agenda has some very interesting budget versus actual figures on Mayor and Councillors and explanations of same.

At approx. 10:45 or so the audience was asked to leave the chamber for matters in confidence to be heard. By this stage I was pretty much over the whole night and at 11:03pm the Mayor declared the meeting closed and advised that an additional council meeting would be reconvened on Tuesday 6th October to deal with final matters. It appears there were still 6 matters remaining plus acceptance of all 7 committee minutes plus Questions with Notice and several outstanding Confidential Matters.

Meeting reconvened on Tuesday 6th October, 2015 at 5:07 pm and was finished by 5:25 pm a total of 18 minutes to finalise Wednesday’s meeting and I am glad I did not drive all the way into Liverpool for just 18 minutes.

My only comments regarding this meeting that there were some great Questions with Notice at the very back of the agenda that were probably missed by all those attended Wed night meeting due to pure fatigue.

These QWN’s are some times better than all the items on the normal agenda from the average resident’s point of view and what residents really want to see and hear the answers to.
Most of these QWN’s come about by us the residents asking questions of our elected Councillors and the answers provided by Council and they are usually always at the back of the very large agendas and get forgotten. For example there were several I found very interesting: Cllr Stanley raised some very pertinent questions regarding the current controversial DA for the Casula Hotel and some very salient questions re-records lost during the 2008 LCC Hoxton Park fire. Cllr Harle’s questions and answers re the highly controversial “Porkgate/Beefgate” Interfaith Luncheon and the ongoing saga of illegal fill at Belfield College Rossmore and Denhamcourt were answered albeit not with the response we expected.

I would personally like to see a lot more time either dedicated to these questions or bring them forward on the agenda maybe (tongue in cheek replace Mayoral Minutes).

Well that’s it for now folks, sorry it was such a long blog but it was a mammoth meeting and these were just some of the more interesting points. As always I recommend that if you feel I have not covered any item to the fullest there are detailed records on Council’s website under Council Meetings.

Until next month and as always these are my own personal thoughts, opinions and comments and you are more than welcome to add your own replies or comments.

Pauline

10th October 2015

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