Upper House Labor leader Adam Searle savages minister over attempts to suspend Blue Mountains Council

NSW Labor leader in the Upper House and former Blue Mountains mayor Adam Searle in Parliament.
NSW Labor leader in the Upper House and former Blue Mountains mayor Adam Searle in Parliament.

NSW local government minister Gabrielle Upton has “bungled” her attempts to suspend Blue Mountains City Council because she is acting in response to a “sustained campaign” by a radio shock jock, Upper House MP Adam Searle told Parliament on Tuesday [May 1].

Although the Labor Party leader in the Upper House did not name the announcer or station, he said the minister’s actions against council were on the back “of a sustained campaign by at least one radio station”.

2GB’s Ray Hadley has campaigned strongly on his morning show for months over council’s mishandling of asbestos. Allegations he made on his show were used in the minister’s latest attempt to suspend the council.

But Mr Searle, a former Blue Mountains mayor, said the minister had “bungled” her attempts to suspend council as a result.

“So poorly framed was [the most recent suspension threat notice]... by the minister that she was injuncted in the Supreme Court from proceeding on that basis,” he said. 

“Rather than have a matter litigated to finality in the Land and Environment Court where it should have been heard by now, she has instead embarked on appealing this matter to the Court of Appeal.

“It is almost as if the minister has no faith in her actual legal strategy and is only engaging in litigation as a political solution to being criticised in the media for her lack of action,” he said.

It is almost as if the minister has no faith in her actual legal strategy and is only engaging in litigation as a political solution to being criticised in the media for her lack of action.

Adam Searle

Mr Mallard savaged the Labor-dominated council over its handling of asbestos, quoting from a highly critical independent report about the Lawson Mechanics Institute site.

Mr Searle described the speech as “highly partisan” and said it “bore all the hallmarks of having been authored in the office of the Minister for the Environment [Gabrielle Upton] — the same minister who recently bungled the Return and Earn recycling project and has bungled her legal efforts to suspend the elected council at Blue Mountain City”.

“It is instructive that subsequent to the Hon. Shayne Mallard’s speech — despite its highly partisan nature — Liberal councillors on the Blue Mountains City Council have spoken publicly about it and rejected what the Hon. Shayne Mallard said. They indicated that although the Hon. Shayne Mallard talked about one independent inquiry into the handling by the Blue Mountains City Council of this matter, he neglected to indicate to the House that there were four reports. The council has adopted the recommendations from all of them and it is clear that the elected council has not been the subject of any adverse findings in relation to these matters.”

In response, Mr Mallard said that he was “intrigued” the Labor leader in the Upper House felt “the need to run interference for his Labor colleagues on the council and the state Labor member Trish Doyle”.

“With less than 12 months to go before residents of the Blue Mountains go to the polls in the NSW election, it’s clear that Labor’s head office is worried about the inaction of the local Labor member Trish Doyle on the asbestos issue.”

He repeated his call for the council to be suspended “so that an independent administrator can restore community confidence in the processes of the Blue Mountains Council”.

A spokeswoman for Gabrielle Upton’s office said the minister would not be commenting as the matter is before the courts.