IN A controversial move Hawkesbury Council has voted to voice its support for marriage equality, support a yes vote in the upcoming plebiscite on gay marriage and to work with the LGBTQI community.
Mayor Kim Ford brought it up at Council’s August 9 meeting as a mayoral minute.
The vote passed 8-3, with councillors Patrick Conolly, Jill Reardon and Warwick Mackay voting against it, while Cr Bob Porter was absent from the meeting.
Most councillors spoke favourably of the mayoral minute, although Cr Conolly voiced his opposition to it, and Member for Hawkesbury Dominic Perrottet expressed outrage over the decision.
Cr Conolly said it was not the role of councillors to throw their weight either way behind federal issues.
He said no one had ever approached him as a councillor to voice their objections or support of marriage equality, nor the fact that the federal government wanted to spend $162 million to hold a plebiscite on the issue.
He also took issue with the wording of the motion, which he said committed Council staff and rate payer money to working on what was essentially a gesture of support.
Councillor Leigh Williams rubbished the notion Council was committed to providing money to work on the issue.
“We're not committing any funds here. We are suggesting to engage with the community and what this is will be determined at some point in the future,” he said.
Mayor Kim Ford said he understood the motion did not commit Council to anything financially.
Councillor Christine Paine said Council frequently weighed in on federal issues.
“What rubbish, to say why aren't we getting involved with federal issues. How many times do we ask staff to write to state or federal members to get support on issues. This is not different,” she said.
Councillor Paul Rasmussen praise the mayoral minute.
“I found this enlightening and it is good to see you [The Mayor] put this forward,” he said.
“If this Council is not going to demonstrate leadership, what is it to do?
“We should demonstrate leadership on something particularly if it affects our community, which this one does. We should be promoting equality and harmony in our community. It will create growth in our community.”
Several councillors added that while they support marriage equality, they would rather see a vote in parliament, rather than have a plebiscite on the issue, because the plebiscite is estimated to cost $162 million.
Councillor Barry Calvert was one of those councillors to say the plebiscite was a waste of money.
Last year, Cr Calvert moved a motion to fly a rainbow flag outside the Council Chambers during Mardi Gras, but the motion was voted down.
Member for Hawkesbury Dominic Perrottet launched a scathing attack on councillors.
He said it risked diverting resources away from what Council should be focusing on.
“Whatever your position on this issue, this is exactly the kind of decision that upsets, frustrates and angers the local community,” said Mr Perrottet via a prepared statement.
“The total lack of financial accountability beggars belief. Only last month the Council wrote to me requesting millions of dollars in extra government funding for services, yet today we find they apparently have enough ratepayer dollars to slosh around on ideological campaigns they have no mandate to meddle in.”
“It also shows the Council completely lacks the focus to deal with the issues ratepayers actually pay them to deal with - roads, rubbish and rates.
“If councillors have time to indulge in campaigns on peripheral federal matters, I think the ratepayers of Hawkesbury would like to know why they don’t have time to address the basics, like the $100m of unprocessed development applications they are sitting on, choking the local economy.”
Mr Perrottet said it was an unnecessary move.
“This Council decision was completely out of step with the views of people of Hawkesbury,” he said.
“Hawkesbury City Council should spend less time on marriage equality and more time on services equality.”