Hey Barry O’Farrell, piss off out of Marrickville

Barry O’Farrell, I’ve got my eye on you. It’s one thing to start sorting out the mess left after a decade and half of NSW Labor government that was incompetent to the point of, I suspect, corruption. I’m sure we can all provide a list of folks whose bank and phone records we’d like to see pulled by ICAC. But that’s very different from threatening with sacking a local government body whose actions happen not to coincide with the interests of your mates in the pro-Israel cheer squad.

Yes, Marrickville Council decided to boycott Israel over that whole Palestine thing. So what? What business is that of yours as NSW Premier? None.

As an individual, I have the right to hold whatever political views I like. Freedom of thought and freedom of political expression are amongst the very few human rights we’ve properly protected here in Australia. Should I decide that some individual, group, business, organisation or nation holds views so repugnant that I’d rather not support them, then it’s my right not to do business with them.

As a proper, legally-constituted, legitimately-elected local government body — as a legal “person” — the Marrickville Council also has that basic legal right to choose who it does business with.

Now as it happens, I reckon Marrickville’s decision wasn’t terribly well thought through. As my colleague Josh Taylor over at ZDNet Australia points out, boycotting everything that comes out of Israel denies you access to the latest computing technology from Intel, amongst other things. The very fact that Marrickville Council didn’t respond to his questions but instead waved him off to a prepared statement at their website proves, in my opinion, that they don’t have the intellectual integrity or moral backbone to discuss and stand by their decision. By all means criticise them for that.

But until very recently I’d spent most of a decade as a citizen of Marrickville. Yes, there’s a certain idealistic leftism suffusing the place, if I may resort to that tediously tired old left-right classification. But from a resident’s perspective they got on with the job of delivering services with far fewer allegations of dodgy behaviour than certain Labor-dominated local councils I could name. Or Liberal-dominated councils, for that matter. Why isn’t your attention focussed on them?

So, Mr O’Farrell, unless you’ve got some prima facie evidence of corruption or misconduct on the part of Marrickville Council, piss off out of it. It’s up to the citizens of Marrickville to decide whether they do or don’t support their Council’s actions, no-one else’s.

You’ve got enough on your plate to be getting on with as it is, Mr O’Farrell. Get on with it.

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24 comments

  1. Frank’s avatar

    Is such behavour from Marrickville Council in the best interests of the community they serve?

    Such a policy is not the domain of Local Government, the Council should stick to delivering services to their community.

  2. Stilgherrian’s avatar

    @Frank: I disagree. Strongly. I think it’s the responsibility of all of us, individuals and “legal persons” of every kind, to stand up for what we think is right. As soon as we start telling people and entities that only certain issues are within their purview, that it’s none of their business otherwise, then we’re giving in to apathy.

    Note than none of that is meant to suggest that I think Marrickville Council’s decision is right or wrong. But the only people who can decide what’s in the best interests of the citizens of Marrickville are the citizens of Marrickville.

    I realise there’s an apparent inconsistency there, but I think I can resolve it. We all have the right to an opinion, and the right to express it. But Marrickville Council isn’t responsible to anyone other than its residents.

  3. Frank’s avatar

    @Stil – If as you say it is the residents of Marrickville that determine whether it is in their best interest – have the Council consulted with their constituents (via an official means such as Council Poll rather then the pages of News Ltd fish-and-chip wrappers), if not why not?

  4. Stilgherrian’s avatar

    @Frank: That’s all a question for the Marrickville Council, is it not? As far as I’m concerned it’s up to the residents to decide whether they were sufficiently consulted and take that up with their Council if needs be. And they can certainly escalate that to the State government if they’re not satisfied.

    What concerns me is that it seems that people outside Marrickville are wanting to buy into the whole process for reasons that, quite frankly, have fuck all to do with some purported concern for the well-being of the citizens of Marrickville and everything to do with their political views in other arenas.

  5. AS’s avatar

    Frank – the constituents do get the chance to decide. It’s called an election. Unless you’re proposing some sort of Swiss-style referendum on every policy decision, in which case be prepared to get bombarded with the yes-no advertising even if you don’t really care. I’ve lived in Switzerland for a while and it’s all a bit crazy.

  6. David Olsen’s avatar

    While I agree that as a political body Marrickville council can choose who they do business with and i’d argue there is plenty of support for the people of Palestine among residents of the Marrickville LGA, I can definitely see how engaging in trade boycotts against nation states is outside the domain of a local council.

    The council’s role is to deliver services to constituents at a level too granular for them to be served by higher levels of government in Australia. As such, the BDS, while it comes under my belief that “they can do business with whoever they like” above, is a policy area that the federal government handles, with the actions of LGA councils and NSW states that work counter to the policies of the federal government working counter to our nation’s interests.

    If we accept that the Marrickville LGA is a distinct political entity that is not part of a larger system of Australian government, then I see no jurisdiction for other levels of government to interfere with the council’s policy. I see the local councils as piece of Australia’s system of government, as such they need to be headed in the same direction when they serve Australia and its people.

    I also agree with Frank above when he asks whether the BDS is in the best interests of serving the community, I just can’t see how cutting yourself off from businesses that deal with Israel is going to result in the same service levels to constituents.

    That said though, If the voters are happy to accept inferior services from the council in order to achieve broader political objectives, I guess the council is fulfilling its responsibilities to the area.

  7. Simon Rumble’s avatar

    Totally agree with you on the competence of Marrickville Council. Remember when Marrickville was run by Barry Cotter and South Sydney by Vic Smith? Completely corrupt. Barry’s re-election strategy was to do a pub crawl down King Street and Enmore Road buying the whole pub a beer. Worked for years, and look at the legacy he left.

    What’s most galling is how the Labor councillors of Marrickville have abandoned the cause they originally supported. Disgusting.

    And, of course, the reason local governments are even talking about this is because our Federal government, who should handle things like this, are cravenly supporting a racist, murderous state. Yes Israel is, by definition, a racist state, a relic of early 20th Century nationalism.

  8. Snarky Platypus’s avatar

    And, of course, the reason local governments are even talking about this is because our Federal government, who should handle things like this, are cravenly supporting a racist, murderous state.

    I think most nation states meet this criteria, which would make for an interesting policy if you wanted to boycott all of them…

    Barry should rattle his sabres elsewhere and worry about more relevant issues on governing the state . He does not need to interfere and Marrickville Council are doing an adequate job of making arses of themselves over this without his pathetic attempts at looking important.

  9. Smirking Liberal’s avatar

    As a Marrickville resident, nothing would please me more than the Libs sending in a plenipotentiary and ruling Marriqville by decree.

    Can’t see it happening though. I suspect the Greens will bravely run away and get smashed at the next election.

  10. James Purser’s avatar

    @Smirking Liberal, would you be happy if, say a Labor Government decided to sack a Liberal council over purchasing decisions that did not involve any hint of corruption or incompetency?

    See there are two seperate issues here: firstly the BDS itself, which personally I think will be as effective as a limp bit of celery and secondly the threat to sack the Council.

    The legislation that allows a State Government to sack a council is wide enough to drive a truck through. Essentially the minister can sack a council on a whim. All he/she has to do is hold an “inquiry”, consider the results and then make a decision. This means the minister has the power to sack for any or no reason at all.

    We don’t want to start encouraging the State to make these decisions based on purely political considerations.

  11. Pfh007’s avatar

    As a former long time resident of 2204 i was surprised that the Greens had become so cocky that they were now seeking to stride the world stage. Good luck to them – council elections come around regularly enough and the residents can boot them out for hubris if the mood takes them. The state govt should let them make fools of themselves. It would be a different situation if they were crooks but the voters can sort out political delusions of granduer without the help of Bazza.

  12. Gaelic Neilson’s avatar

    Israel’s greatest fear is realized in the microcosm of Marrickville. Israel’s strong economy is highly interwoven into the western economy. Its almost impossible to truly boycott ALL things related to Israel. But on the other hand, this is exactly what makes the apartheid state so vulnerable. There really is nothing that Israel peddles that cannot be made anywhere else. Israel is not selling uranium, that cannot be had anywhere else like South Africa boasted. Israel sells hi-tech, cosmetics, fruit, even clothes! Even Israel’s diamonds are bought in Africa, and polished in India, then sold from Israel! Israel gets the biggest share of the profit.
    Dear Stilgherrain and other Zionists with you, I’m not here to debate, my time is too valuable. So you may reply to me in rebuttal but the reason I’m not going to argue back and forth is due to time restrictions. Not due to you winning this debate. Thanks for listening and thanks for all your attention to this.

  13. Yael Kahn’s avatar

    Why allow red herrings, such as the unfounded claims of costs to the council?
    So many red herrings aiming at diversion from the main issues, no surprise many get lost.
    Lots of the confusion could be clarified by seeking more accurate info re the boycott and BDS, such as:
    http://is.gd/gNFKqt
    http://is.gd/yKBK6h
    http://www.bdsmovement.net

    There are those who aren’t bothered by Apartheid, so they often hide their motives under pretexts, such as the unfounded claim that it isn’t appropriate for local bodies to take political stances.
    Scare mongering is another tactic of those whose agenda is to defend the right of Israel to practice a system of discrimination intended at maintaining domination over the Palestinians. They often falsely claim that BDS imply everything is boycotted. Clearly this is not always possible. For example, products could be made in one country and yet include components made in Israel.
    The implementation of the BDS will always be subjected to common sense, practical constraints, etc.
    The real issue is: do we really want a society condoning Apartheid, any Apartheid?
    Please support the BDS and in particular Marrickville Council decision to boycott Israel.

  14. ZoeL’s avatar

    I think it’s a courageous act by Marrickville Council to decide to boycott Israeli goods until Israel upholds international humanitarian law. Every time a council or local governing body takes a decision like this it has resonance in the fight against apartheid. In fact, as national governments refuse to act to protect the Palestinian people from occupation, apartheid and war crimes, it is up to local governments and civil society to take a stand. BDS represents a non-violent way to resist injustice and is surely to be encouraged and embraced. The practicalities of what to boycott can be worked out to ensure that there is no loss to the council but the principle remains the same: resist apartheid and stand in solidarity with those doing so. This is admirable and hopefully more councils will follow Marrickville. There is quite a precedent with councils in Ireland, for example, withdrawing contracts from companies acting illegally and in complicity with occupation and major trader unions supporting the BDS call.
    Good luck with this and I hope more and more councils decide to boycott apartheid Israel.

  15. Stilgherrian’s avatar

    Thank you for your comments, and welcome especially if you’re visiting here for the first time. As I mention in my comments policy, I probably won’t respond to everyone individually.

    I’ll also skip comments that tend towards mindless party-political tribalism — you know, the “my party is good / wonderful / would solve this and your party is stupid / lame / useless” stuff. Such commentary tends to ignore the obvious fact that every political party has both strengths and weaknesses, every viewpoint its nuances. People who’ve already defined their worldview in terms of such tribalism will never change their mind and are usually really boring to talk to. So I don’t bother.

    In this particular case, I won’t enter into the specifics of Israel v Palestine either. There’s plenty of forums for that and I doubt that anyone has anything really new to say.

    The core question here is whether a local government body should or should not express a political opinion or take action on a matter outside its own local area. David Olsen has put the “no” case most clearly, I think. Thank you. But I must disagree.

    “I just can’t see how cutting yourself off from businesses that deal with Israel is going to result in the same service levels to constituents,” David writes. “That said though, if the voters are happy to accept inferior services from the council in order to achieve broader political objectives, I guess the council is fulfilling its responsibilities to the area.”

    Ignoring for the moment the unwarranted assumption that the choice in this case would lead to “inferior services”, what this argument misses is any sense of moral obligation to consider any factors other than “service levels” and, presumably, cost. I believe that we all have an obligation, as human and other legal persons, to consider the moral and ethical dimensions of our actions.

    David writes, “I see the local councils as piece of Australia’s system of government, as such they need to be headed in the same direction when they serve Australia and its people.” But what if your moral conscience says that the direction being taken by the higher-level is wrong? Surely you don’t ignore your conscience and submit to an authority you believe to be acting wrongly?

    Now of course there’s the question of whether the moral repugnance in a particular case warrants the political friction and other risks of dissenting. But I say that choosing to dissent is Marrickville Council’s right and, indeed, if their conscience so tells them its duty as well.

    @Pfh007: I think labelling Marrickville Council’s actions as “cocky”, “stride the world stage”, “hubris”, “fools” and “delusions of grandeur” is a mistake. Unless you intend to apply those descriptions to anyone expressing a political opinion that’s unlikely, in and of itself, to change the world?

    I haven’t seen evidence to suggest that Marrickville Council imagines the Knesset would suddenly change its policies on their say-so — though I’m happy to change my mind if there is such evidence. Surely it’s just another small symbolic action, like signing a petition, that they hope will be part of the greater whole?

    Marrickville Council is unlikely to withdraw its boycott just on your say-so. So is your comment also “cocky”, “hubris”, “delusions of grandeur” etc? I daresay you think not. And nor do I.

  16. Pfh007’s avatar

    I think a distinction needs to be drawn the political opinions of members of council generally and their opinions on matters reasonably within the concerns of a local council.

    There are plenty of good reasons to be critical of israeli policy but local residents did not elect councillors to office to debate those issues let alone adopt a boycott policy.

    If councillors have strong views on the subject that is fine and there is no reason they cannot use their public profile as a result of their office to generate publicity for their position. They might have organised a petition and invited local residents who share their views on israel to declare the support and a personal commitment to boycott israel.

    But all of that is quite different to what appears to have happened in 2204.

    Having been elected with no mention of this policy councillors then seek to commit the entire community to what appears to be their personal views on an international issue. Surely pushing that issue is a matter for the federal govt or people and political parties in their own capacity.

    My various peppery comments should be understood as directed to politicians who think having been elected they have some right to hijack the status of their office to endorse views that are completely irrelevant to their area of responsibilty.

    If they want to claim that the municipality of marrickville supports their position hold a referendum or at least a petition. That will make it clear whether they speak for the residents or themselves.

  17. Stilgherrian’s avatar

    @Gaelic Neilson: I’ve only just now approved your comment from yesterday. It was flagged as being spam for some reason or other. Anyway, it’s published now.

    But on this…

    Dear Stilgherrain [sic] and other Zionists with you, I’m not here to debate, my time is too valuable.

    … I have two points.

    If you think that anything I’ve written here indicates that I’m a Zionist, you really haven’t been reading very carefully at all.

    What’s so goddam bloody special about your time as opposed to anyone else’s?

  18. James Purser’s avatar

    I had pretty much the same experience on twitter on friday. I mentioned that it was possible to be displeased with Israeli policy without having a problem with the Jewish people and I was immediately attacked as being “anti-zionist” and by extension anti-jewish.

    And its really, really starting to bug me. The practice of immediately labeling those who you may disagree with as extremists and so on isn’t designed to win a debate through reason and discussion, it’s designed to try and shame your opposition into giving up. Not exactly conducive to a future of peace and enlightenment

    Gah

  19. Ruth Tenne’s avatar

    As an Israeli human rights activist who witnessed the plight of the Palestinians for many decades (since the Israeli militia razed to the ground the Palestinian villages neighbouring my Kibbutz in order to make way for the creation of the State of Israel), I strongly support the BDS movement and hope that Marrickirville Council would hold firm its courageous and humane decision to exercise boycott against the colonial state of Israel which has been brutally suppressing the Palestinians for the past 63 years. Until Israel complies with international and human rights law the boycott should stay in place and ,along with a growing number of authorities , companies,faith organisations, trade unions and civil society members, the Marrickirville Council should have the the right to follow its brave stance and face up to its detractors who use all sorts of unlawful pressure in order to make the Council revoke its much admired BDS motion
    Ruth Tenne
    Israeli human rights activist

  20. Hagit Borer’s avatar

    I am very much with Ruth here, myself being also a veteran of many struggles for peace with justice in the Middle East. The Marrickirville community has the right, indeed the duty and the privilege, to use whatever economic power they may have furthering moral policies, locally and world wide, and the injustice continuously inflicted on the Palestinian People by the state of Israel is a very worthy cause.

    In considering the approporiateness of the actions of the Marrickirville Council, do also consider the question of how much support you choose to give to activists on behalf of the Palestinian struggle, among them many Israeli Jews.

  21. Karen’s avatar

    I firmly applaud Merrickiville on their principled and moral stance of supporting the BDS movement and answering the call from Palestinian society to bring down the apartheid regime that is Israel.

    Israel must stop violating international law with the construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank and it must end its collective punishment of the 1.5 million Gazans through a blockade that denies them adequate food, medicine and building materials, and that prevents them from travelling abroad for study and commerce.

    A similar campaign gradually led to the end of apartheid in South Africa, and South Africa and the world is better off for its success. If the campaign against Israel’s illegal behaviour is successful, then Palestine will be free, as is their human right. As we all enjoy.

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