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Council humour made to measure

 

Nice to see the member for Camden Chris Patterson the other day as we strolled through Camden’s beautiful Argyle Street. We were on the phone but Chris, always a gentleman, stuck his hand out for a handshake and a smile. He’s a good bloke, Patto, South West Confidential has always had time for him. Even when he took on another friend of ours, Geoff Corrigan, the then sitting member for Camden, at a state election in 2011. Patto won that contest and Corro is now in charge of walking the Corrigan household dogs, but for years before they used to be allies. Patto used his then pub, the Merino, for election fundraisers to help Corrigan once or twice, but that all came to an end in 2011 when they lined up against each other.

They may argue a lot, but there’s also humour at council meetings around the traps from time to time. At a recent Campbelltown Council meeting, Councillor Fred Borg took out the unofficial funniest act of the evening award. Cr Borg was discussing plans to erect a fence at Waminda Oval, around the rugby league field used by the East Campbelltown Eagles. The proposal was for a 1.2m fence, but Cr Borg was arguing that it should be a little bigger, 20cm bigger. Well, he said, 20cm is not much, let me show you. And there at that moment he pulls out a tape measure and proceeds to show how much 20cm is, to general laughter in the council chamber. Well done Fred, but with all due respect, it’s best if he doesn’t give up his day job – as a councillor –to become a comedian.

You may have seen a picture we have published of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, treasurer Joe Hockey, and NSW Premier, Mike Baird, along with four local pollies, posing with shovels and doing the old ‘‘turning the first sod’’ ceremony to launch work on the widening of Narellan Road. And I’m sure that you, like me, wondered what was so special that some of the country’s heaviest political hitters came to humble Macarthur to take part in launching a capital works project valued at a little more than $100 polliesmillion? Well, yes, that’s right, it has to do with the Abbott government’s drive to tell us about how they are about to spend $50 billion – yes, $50 billion – on infrastructure projects around the country, to both create jobs as well as increase productivity across the board. I spotted the answer in last weekend’s The Australian, in a column by veteran journo Dennis Shanahan. So there you go, you could say, oh no, journalists quoting other journalists, etc, but the reality is that if you asked the government why the big guns were there at Narellan Road, the widening would be complete before you got a response from the casts of thousands who work in their PR sections. And, in any case, at least I told you where I got my information from.

Your hard working councillors at Campbelltown – there’s 15 of them don’t forget – claimed a combined $28,376 in expenses during the month June. The full details, if you are interested, are contained in the business paper for the July 29 council meeting and are available online.

Travelling north to Liverpool, it was nice to see former Liverpool councillor Nadia Napoletano sitting behind the councillors during their July 30 meeting. But it momentarily confused this reporter, because I hadn’t seen Nadia since the election and last seen her when she was a councillor. A lawyer, Nadia, council’s group manager governance, was kept busy providing legal advice to the council during the meeting. An interested observer at the meeting was Signe Westerberg, the local Greens’ representative. Another observation: I found myself comparing the meetings between Campbelltown and Liverpool, having attended them on consecutive nights. Liverpool starts meetings with what they call a public forum, whereby, by prior arrangement, members of the public can address the council on an issue they are concerned with. On this night, there were 10 speakers, and although I commend them all for having the courage of their convictions, with six speaking on the same issue it became a bit repetiive after the first couple. But you could tell every speaker appreciated this access to their councillors. One last thing, and that’s no reflection of anything in particular but there were a lot more residents present at Liverpool than Campbelltown. As for their councillors themselves, even though you may not agree with their views all the time, you can see that their collective hearts are in the right place. And who can ask for more than that.

The Liverpool Council customer feedback policy has a fancy name: Compliments and Complaints, and every quarter a report is prepared with the figures included. The July 30 meeting report revealed that Compliments was the big winner over Complaints during the April-June quarter, 24-6.

Back at Campbelltown for the footy on a Monday night, there was a bit of a reunion of sorts in one corporate box. Watching the Wests Tigers capitulate 28-6 to Melbourne Storm were former Camden MP Geoff Corrigan, retired tile king Ron Green, David Hazlett, recently retired Wollondilly Shire Council GM Les McMahon, yours truly and his better half, as well as the hosts from Bradcorp, Graham Kelly and the big boss himself, Peter Brennan, a huge Tigers fan. It wasn’t exactly Nostalgia Night, but a few old yarns got a workout before they all headed home.

I am driving home from Belmore one Saturday morning, having gone there to pick up some ready made chicken and pork souvlaki for my granddaughter Hazel’s birthday party on the Sunday, and I had just turned into my street, in bushland, when I caught this bike in my rearview mirror. It followed me all the way to the gate at my property, and then also turned right into my driveway. I do know a bike riding dude who lives around the corner from me, and thought maybe it was him. I  stopped my car to the left, leaving room for the easy rider and as he came up next to me, he removed his helmet to reveal himself: the Federal Member for Fowler, Chris Hayes, formerly of Werriwa. Yes, only a politician you say, but I was just glad he wasn’t a copper, because I had been speeding a little over the limit driving past his place a few second earlier.

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