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Byron Shire
June 20, 2024

Election wedges

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One of the ugliest aspects of politics (and there are many) is when a group of actors conspire together to wedge their opponents. How will the voting public respond on December 4?

Since the ballot was drawn last week, all the candidates are now presented on a platter before a hungry electorate.

Are you hungry for change?

Voters looking for fresh, new leadership after the December 4 Council elections will likely be disappointed to learn that three mayoral candidates, who are not currently councillors, have joined themselves at the hip to acting Mayor, Michael Lyon (Independent, former Greens).

A ‘United Front’ press release by four candidates said the group comprises Cr Lyon, and includes candidates Mark Swivel (Independent), Asren Pugh (Labor) and Bruce Clarke (Independent).

It’s a confusing message because the election issues the ‘united’ four raised
are popular issues everyone would support. They include reactivating the disused rail corridor (without saying how), completing a Coastal Zone Management Plan, green infrastructure (bioenergy plant, solar projects) and an Arakwal/Bunjalung Cultural Centre.

If anything, these candidates look to be aiming a little too low. Are these four candidates closet underachievers?
Thier announcement seems less about election issues, and more about their preference deals and united support for each other.

Boys’ club united!

As the only female mayoral candidate, Cr Cate Coorey pointed out the election issues they’ve raised (except the Cultural Centre) is stuff Council have been working on for some time.

Anyway, dear voter, it’s all so confusing, because the three candidates buddying up to Cr Lyon are calling for change of leadership, while including him in the team.

Candidate Bruce Clarke wants a ‘refreshing’ of Council, according to his PR. Candidate Asren Pugh’s first press release opined, ‘we need a Mayor, and a Council, that will drive a positive vision that puts our community at its heart’.

And candidate Mark Swivel has said in one of his many, many press releases, ‘Byron needs change and energy, a more professional and positive approach to Council’.

The problem facing Bruce Clarke, Mark Swivel, and Asren Pugh is that Cr Michael Lyon is dead weight. And part of the problem.

He was elected as a Greens councillor in 2016, then quit because he wasn’t supported by that party. He is the protégé of the former Greens mayor, who undermined that party by supporting National Party politics.

The former mayor, and now the current one, have done little to improve trust, transparency and accountability. Both looked to staff for opinions and acted as their protection racket.

Executive Council staff have firmly been in control for a long time, and this announcement by these candidates – so far – offers nothing new in the slightest. If anything, shouldn’t this campaign be about trust?

Other candidates running are current councillors Cate Coorey (left of centre) and Alan Hunter (right of centre), former councillor Duncan Dey (Greens), Chris McIlrath (Independent) and longtime Council agitator, John Anderson (Independent).

Candidate Tom Barnett (‘Wildcard’ Independent), is yet to settle his dispute with the NSW Electoral Commission.

Should be a fun couple of weeks!

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  1. See below for typo adjustment

    Interesting editorial that seems to be fixated on the role of the Mayor, both past and possible future. What I see in the announcement is that a group of potential candidates are open about their preference arrangements and ability to work together and that while many of the policies coincide with current Council policies there has been a decided lack of progress on many. The housing crisis is one in point where this Council made an affordable housing proposal known as the Brunz Eco Village impossible to jump through endless hoops largely due to the efforts of the current Greens No 3 candidate. The Coastal Management Plan has been talked about endlessly by numerous Green Councils for decades but still not finalised. The list goes on. What is important is that groups can work together for the larger good and put aside their idealogical blinkers. The Greens are a wonderful group of activists and have contributed much to the political culture on local, State & Federal levels. Their passion is their strength but also their weakness as they have difficulty accommodating other via points which are seen as compromises and therefore unacceptable. The failure to support Kevin Rudds Carbon emissions proposal is a case in point as it was not seen as perfect. On a local level, opposition and failure to work with local land owners on the West Byron site has resulted in the land being sold to outside developers and taken out of Councils hands by the state Government. The results of this will soon be all too evident unfortunately.


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