Labor insiders tell VEXNEWS they’ve been pleasantly surprised by the election results of the powerful Wollongong City Council, declaring that the only way is up for the party in an area so rife with corruption claims and trouble that a play was written about it, largely drawing on Independent Commission Against Corruption transcripts as the truth is stranger than even the most fanciful fiction at times. Some three councillors from the ALP and multiple council officers faced charges arising from these unfortunate circumstances.
The popular refrain on the ground and from the local press was to “keep the major parties” (or politics itself) out of council, yet fewer independents and more Liberal party members were elected.
The ALP stone appears to have stopped dropping too. Many expected a massacre, after the scandals, and the difficulties NSW Labor has had since they knifed Morris Iemma. But Labor’s Janice Kershaw did well against a fierce local campaign and another David Brown got the same vote as he achieved in previous elections. Labor had six on the past council and will have four on the new one, which is considered a very good result in the circumstances.
Insiders say they’ve been returned in much the same situation as caused many of the past difficulties: a weak Lord Mayor with no party support surrounded by very experienced councillors and some who put the ‘less’ in ‘clueless.’
Indeed, the newly elected mayor The Reverend Gordon Bradbery is regarded as an attention-seeking clean-skin who’ll struggle to cope with the tough politics of the ‘Gong. As a Uniting Church minister, naturally he supports the free supply of heroin to addicts because addiction is a medical problem. His views were too unconventional and lefty even for the Uniting Church authorities and he was sacked two years ago from that role. Hopefully for him, he’ll have more success dealing with the council congregation.
Reviewing Bradbery’s material, he seems very similar to Melbourne’s preachy pompous serial candidate and rent-a-quote rat-bag Les Twentyman, positioning himself as a moral force while accusing everyone else of being an evil, corrupt liar. Bradbery’s web-site has more references to “lies” than the Hong Kong phone book. His slogan was “Integrity you can trust” – big words he’ll need to be careful to match. Of course, he’ll be keen to avoid junkets, dodgy expenses claims, corporate hospitality, free stuff in general and even looking at a developer with anything less than a surly scowl for fear of being seen as a little hypocritical.
Those familiar with the situation say that the Labor and Liberal councillors could find common ground against the two Greens, in favour of growth and opportunity in the region. The Liberals don’t have much of an operation in Wollongong, with their council activities largely drawing on crusty old conservative independents, who have run before in that capacity. Despite that they managed to get four people elected for the first time ever and achieved over a quarter of the vote.
Labor insiders say that Young Labor patriots were mobilised very effectively, even selflessly declining to empty the bar at the campaign party although kicking on the Illawarra Hotel where takings vastly exceeded expectations.
The Wollongong council has been so on-the-nose that state and federal MPs shunned the local campaign for fear of catching some guilt-by-association.
Some ALP folk say there are some lessons others could draw from in their campaign:
1. Left off ALP. They lost ethnic votes in Wollongong because voters whose english was poor and did not see ALP or the ALP logo. The ALP used Community Labor but every other team was also labelled “community”
2. Ignored Local Knowledge on polling booths. In areas with strong ALP support and the booth workers did not clearly identify themselves as ALP. In conservative areas they failed to use the candidate name especially for Janice Kershaw and David Brown who have respect above party affiliation.
3. Labor Mayoral Candidate campaigned as The Man with the Plan. But no body had any idea what that plan was….poor advertising of it , no access to it via internet etc
4. Campaign manager not a local….made some basic mistakes.