The Greens are opposed to any forced amalgamations. We support strong, local representation and, unlike this Government, we are supporters of democracy. Read our support for the petition against the forced amalgamation of Woollahra council.
Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) [4.48 p.m.], by leave: I support the petition against the forced amalgamation of Woollahra council. I acknowledge the mayor of Woollahra, who is in the public gallery, and the more than 10,000 people who have come together to sign this petition. It is quite bizarre that the Minister for Local Government—the person who is forcing this amalgamation on the council—is the one in this Chamber who is talking about a petition against forced amalgamations. One could read that as being a small change of heart, but I do not hold out too much hope. Let me be clear: The Greens are opposed to any forced amalgamations. We support strong, local representation and, unlike this Government, we are supporters of democracy.
TEMPORARY SPEAKER (Mr Lee Evans): Order! The member for Kiama will come to order. The member for Rockdale will come to order. The member for Oatley will come to order.
Ms JENNY LEONG: We are supporters of local representation, just like the 81 per cent of residents of Woollahra who have said that they do not support an amalgamation. This is an overwhelming majority. A forced amalgamation with Randwick City Council and Waverley council will yield no discernible returns or gains for Woollahra residents, and poses devastating consequences. There is not a single report that supports this amalgamation. The Baird Government has refused to release reports from KPMG analysing the costs and impacts of 35 forced council amalgamations. If the Government's business case setting out the reason for this amalgamation were robust and gave unambiguous support for its politically driven merger plans, it would certainly have been released.
We are watching very closely the legal action and the challenge that is played out. We think that the Government should be very concerned. It appears to be that the argument presented by Woollahra council is that the Government is improperly using section 218A through to section 218F of the Local Government Act to force council amalgamations when those sections were intended only to facilitate voluntary amalgamations—not forced amalgamations. As the Minister said when these provisions were being inserted into the Local Government Act:
This bill proposes amendments to the Local Government Act to assist councils which seek voluntary amalgamation.
It is interesting that the Minister for Local Government has tabled this petition when he is the one who is forcing this reform agenda, which is being driven by an unprincipled and undemocratic right-wing Coalition Government. The Greens remain committed to working with Woollahra residents and communities across the State, whether they be in those councils of Marrickville, Leichhardt and Ashfield that are covered by my electorate, or those with Woollahra that are being forced to amalgamate because it just makes things easier for this Government to push its agenda through. It will silence local community representation. As a result, the Government will continue to be able to destroy our communities and to make our cities less liveable. I congratulate everyone who signed this petition.