Dear Editor see below my OPEN LETTER to Dr David Keegan, Country Labor Candidate for Myall Lakes
Dear Dr Keegan,
In March this year the opposition leader, Luke Foley, announced you as the Country Labor candidate for Myall Lakes in next year’s State Election.
This is the opposition leader who, at the NSW Country Labor Conference in Dubbo on 3 December 2016, promised that a “Labor Government will empower local communities to initiate a plebiscite on whether the forced amalgamation should be reversed. If a community is happy and wants to keep the new boundaries – that’s fine. And if a community wants to go back to their original boundaries – then we’ll respect their decision and make it happen.”
That is a powerful promise by Labor and I ask you, as a Labor candidate, for your views about this promise. I particularly ask you to turn your consideration to a decision, made by the MidCoast Council, which consolidates the amalagamation by a multi million dollar investment in real estate as is the case with the purchase of the “Master’s site” on Biripi Way in Taree. As you are also a MidCoast councillor you must be aware that
the purpose of that is to establish a central local council headquarters where staff from the current council administrative centres at Taree, Forster and Gloucester will be situated
initial actions to acquire the site were commenced when Council was still under administration (before the first election of councillors for the newly, and forcibly, amalgamated council).
Should your party win power in NSW and honour its promise of a plebiscite about the forced mergers, how will you describe, to the new Labor Government, your role as a councillor in relation to the Master’s site? This is a question that will be salient should a local plebiscite show that the majority wish for a de-amalgamation of some sort. It is a question in good faith and is not meant to insinuate that councillors should do nothing but, rather, should show foresight in their decision making and should avoid high level material investment in a thing that could become the subject of expensive dismantling.
When Luke Foley made his promise in December 2016 would he have been aware that a plebiscite might mean that citizens, who normally would support de-amalgamation, might be encumbered by a sense of duress at the prospect of their vote effecting tremendous cost (when dubious and undemocratically initiated projects are dismantled)?
Dr Keegan, did you, as a councillor, support the council acquirement of the “Master’s site”? Or did you oppose it and, if you did, did you have the support of your fellow councillor who, along with your good self, was elected to council on the Country Labor ticket?
I am sure you will recognise that these questions about Country Labor’s role in council matters are pertinent to the Labor promise to “empower local communities to initiate a plebiscite on whether the forced amalgamation should be reversed”. I think that while the Labor campaign of putting schools and hospitals before stadiums is a constructive and attractive one, voters in this regional area, which was subjected to forced council merger, are entitled to know of your commitment to the promise of a plebiscite – in both words and deeds.
The Reply I received from Dr Keegan is –
“I support the policy of voters in MidCoast Council having the right by Plebiscite to seek to “ secede from MCC “ . The way the forced merger was instituted by the LNP government makes the process expensive and complicated.
The merger has been more difficult because the Government has only provide $10 million of the promised$30 million of merger funds.”