THE LEE SCANDAL
Great local political change was in the wind for 2009.
And it didn’t take long to start blowing; on January 7 Cockburn mayor Stephen Lee resigned following a scathing Corruption and Crime Commission report into the shenanigans behind his re-election in 2005.
The CCC discovered that disgraced former WA premier Brian Burke had orchestrated a fake community group and secret, undeclared donations from developer Australand to Mr Lee’s campaign because he was an enthusiastic supporter of its proposed Port Coogee development.
Despite having five misconduct findings delivered against him, Mr Lee surprised everyone by announcing he was going to stand again, saying he’d only resigned because local government minister John Castrilli had threatened to sack the whole council if he didn’t go.
He was up against a congested field, with council allies Kevin Allen and Ian Whitfield throwing their hat into the wind. Former councillor Logan Howlett, who’d come close to knocking Mr Lee off in 2005 despite NOT having a developer handy to shovel $43,500 in through the back door, was also out for revenge.
Mr Howlett romped it in, his 6153 primary votes to Mr Lee’s 1923 consigning the ex-mayor’s political career to the dust.
But his withering attacks on the “Lee faction” during the campaign, which he accuses of running fake campaigns simply to direct preferences to the former mayor, meant he faced a hostile reception in the chamber, and they used their numbers to boot him off committees and vote down his initiatives.
Lead was once prized for its malleability, which is somewhat appropriate given new premier Colin Barnett’s twisting of a pre-election promise to ban the export of the toxic ore through Fremantle’s port.
Four months after his election, he gives Magellan Metals the green light to start shipping it out in bags sealed in shipping containers.
As long as it’s not in open trucks – like Esperance where it killed birdlife and poisoned the town – everything will be hunky dory, Mr Barnett reckons.
The approval is greeted with dismay by Fremantle mayor Peter Tagliaferri, who starts wondering whether uranium will be next on the agenda, while Cockburn mayoral candidate Logan Howlett joins a photo shoot claiming to be ready to lie over the railway tracks to stop the shipments.
Ahhh, if only a pollie’s promise was cast iron, rather than lead.
But there was an even bigger bombshell to come when Fremantle Labor MP Jim McGinty announces his retirement in the wake of his party’s shock loss to Colin Barnett’s resurgent Liberals in September the year before.
Fremantle mayor Peter Tagliaferri had already been touted as a candidate, but he’s not a party member, which has local Laborites on edge. Some hadn’t forgotten a Herald story from years earlier when – complaining about a Labor-heavy Fremantle council – he’d expressed some sympatico for Liberal policies (though he’d knocked rumours of membership on the head).
Voters aren’t convinced either, and after 84 years of Labor control, the “jewel” of the party is snatched by The Greens’ young legal whizkid Adele Carles in an emphatic victory.
Stung by the defeat, Mr Tagliaferri announces he won’t be recontesting the mayoralty.
That paves the way for another Greens-backed young gun, Brad Pettitt, to announce he’ll have a tilt at being mayor, as he wants to spark the next generation of development in Fremantle and make it more accessible to a younger crowd.
Ms Carles’s victory is too much for Labor leader Eric Ripper, who can’t bear the thought of her maiden speech and books himself in for an ABC interview instead.
Later that year Dr Pettitt sweeps to power: “No-one can say Brad doesn’t have a mandate,” said Mr Tagliaferri, cock-a-hoop the lad he’d taken under his wing could now strut his stuff.
Over in Leeming, the locals are feeling like the forgotten suburb after Melville council announces it’s planning to close their local recreation centre. Mayor Russell Aubrey had campaigned for the top job on the promise of saving the centre, so locals are baying for him to keep his word.
RESIDENTS living around the Southern Metropolitan Regional Council’s recycling plant have complained for years about the stink that seeps into their houses and feel like they’re being ignored by authorities.
That is until SMRC staff and councillors rock up in a hire truck out the front of their houses to belittle their claims; “I think it would be quite a pleasant place to live,” declares a sniffing Kwinana councillor Sandra Lee.
Ironically, their gaff gives the residents’ campaign a boost, and the state environmental department orders a formal investigation.
It finds tonnes of rotting green waste is responsible, prompting an apology from chief odour denier and chairman Doug Thompson, who promises they’ll (finally) clean up their act.
TO MARKET, TO MARKET
There are rising tensions over rents in the Fremantle markets, which increase dramatically following a new long-term lease struck between the council (which owns the retail icon) and the Murdoch family which has managed it for a couple of decades.
Stallholders cram into a Fremantle council meeting calling for relief, but the council’s tied its own hands by not including a review mechanism in the lease.
Several speak of an atmosphere of fear amongst each other as they dreaded who’d be next to have their rents reviewed by management – or to be evicted like stallholders association president Richard Murphy, who reckons he got the flick for querying why he was getting a smaller stall for the same rent.
LAZARUS WITH A TRIPLE BYPASS
No decade could go by without a Roe Highway stoush, and this year’s was sparked by South Metro Liberal MLC Barbara Scott calling for the resurrection of the Fremantle Eastern Bypass.
Ms Scott, retiring after being overlooked by Colin Barnett for a ministry, says the bypass should go ahead even if it means residents having to sell their homes along the now-deleted route.
Her comments flush out transport minister Simon O’Brien, who strongly denies a Herald report that he’d flagged the resurrection before last year’s election – he must have forgotten the tape recorder young journo Andrei Buters had poked under his nose.
The issue kicks along throughout the year, with protests here and the usual hubris in state parliament, but come the end of the year the Chook optimistically declares it’s over, with the Rudd government delivering the “death blow”. Oh, sure….
North Port Quay seems like a long-forgotten nightmare, but check online and you’ll find Strzelecki Holdings’ grand plan for three man-made islands off the coast is still floating around today.
The proposed high-density housing development is a huge issue in the Fremantle state by-election, with the developer “advising” on one campaign and new Labor leader Eric Ripper softening his party’s previous hard-line opposition.
But it crosses over into premier Colin Barnett’s seat of Cottesloe, and as the Herald reveals NPQ would obliterate views of Rotto from Leighton Beach, he quietly obliterates Strzelecki’s hopes by saying it will never happen under his watch.
NOT A PRETTY PICTURE
Artists who’ve been haunting the old Royal George Hotel in East Fremantle for 20 years are given their marching orders by new owner The National Trust, which has cosied up with a private consortium to transform the heritage icon into a boutique hotel and bar.