It’s hard not to feel sorry for Gladys

Walking into the job of Premier after Mike Baird chose his time to smirk his way out of it was, for Gladys, just like walking into an empty lift after someone had farted in it as they got out.  Two months later and the fart still hasn’t cleared.

Mike Baird left her quite a legacy: WestConnex and its destruction of heritage houses and lifestyle as it cuts a swathe through the inner west, and its underlying 20th century approach to ignoring public transport and focusing on the private car; the belligerent focus on removing restrictions on planning to focus on development; fantasising at privatising nearly everything; the government’s own developer body ignoring environmental and heritage considerations and the legacy of an ordinary process used to justify amalgamations.

But it’s the issue of amalgamations that makes us feel the most sorry.  It never made any sense to treat a report by KPMG on the claimed financial advantages of rationalising Council boundaries as some kind of secret document.  We know that it has flaws in its analysis - for example, when it calculates the cost of job losses over time it does so based on redundancy benefits under the Federal Award which provides lesser entitlements than the more generous payments under the State Award – but who knows what else it provides and how it would survive a close-up test, or even the pub test.

And considering that the Government loses cases on amalgamations brought by unhappy merger targets solely because of the absence of procedural fairness, it would have made sense to get the process right from the start.

LGNSW seized upon this week’s Court of Appeal victory for Ku-ring-gai with observations reinforcing the importance of procedural fairness and the folly of making decisions without access to all of the facts.  Everyone wanted the release of the KPMG report since it was first announced.   “This is what we’ve been saying all along”, said the president of Local Government NSW, Keith Rhoades.  “They still have not released that report”, said Councillor Rhoades.  “And I don’t think they will - I don’t think it will stack up the way they want it to”.

We couldn’t agree with Keith Rhoades more.  It never, ever makes sense for decisions to be made that will have an adverse impact on others without the process being rigidly procedurally fair - to the extent that often it’s important to have those rules written down.  If they’re not written down, they can be implied and the Court of Appeal relied upon the implied concepts of procedural fairness to hand the win to Ku-ring-gai. 

What a pity that the President of LGNSW is not quite so strident about the importance of procedural fairness when it comes to how his organisation negotiates the State Award...

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