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    « Identity, alcohol and the Cross | Main | The underside of council amalgamations »

    Eating quiche with the burghers of Potts Point

    MP for Sydney Alex Greenwich talks about life as the local MP ... Potts Point Partnership breakfast ... Early morning politics ... Lizzy Wylde reports 

    Greenwich (centre), a wide range of people use his door

    IT'S an entirely American concept - the business breakfast, where movers and shakers network, eat and listen to an oration, and still get to work on time without have drunk alcohol. 

    Maybe that's why many people aren't exactly crazy about the concept. 

    Charles Dance's character in Robert Altman's Gosford Park snapped at a babbling American, "an Englishman never speaks at breakfast". 

    Having said that, it was good to hear the Independent member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, speak at the Potts Point Partnership breakfast on Tuesday (Sept. 3) at the Crick Avenue outpost of the Bourke Street Bakery. 

    The postcode's finest burghers sat at tables, groaning with tiny quiches (suitable for Potts Point men) and pastries, to hear Alex go through his paces as the local MP. 

    Tellingly, he said that when he first arrived at Macquarie Street he was like a fish out of water. 

    "At first I felt that I did not belong here. Then I realised that was a good thing." 

    What he has learnt is the political necessity of building working relationships, negotiating and compromise. It's strange how common ground can be found with people at the lunar opposite end of the spectrum. 

    He's currently talking with Fred Nile about how to limit the impact of James Packer's casino at Barangaroo. The Shooters & Fishers have been involved with Greenwich and the Greens in the process of amending the local government legislation, which sought to give the minister carte blanche discretion to sack local councils, with no reasons. 

    On the fantasy issue of the moment - the dismantling and removal of the Navy base at Garden Island - the local member said that parliament passed a motion condemning the Prime Minister for his out-of-the-blue statement and called on the federal government for get into the groove of community consultation on the issue - if ever it were to happen. 

    One breakfaster who lives at Woolloomooloo said he wasn't so keen on the Navy parking its ships there, "what with that their guns pointing at my flat". 

    It certainly seems weird that the PM would be talking about closing down the base just after the government injected a further $40 million into Garden Island infrastructure. 

    There might still be a possibility to open up the northern end of Garden Island for use as a park, allowing the preservation of the island's historic buildings. 

    Of course, the other ponderable is that if the Navy were to be shifted to the boondocks, there would be no point in dismantling the hammerhead crane. 
    Then there's the mundane, bread-and-butter side to politics - constituents who have trouble reading the No Parking signs and want their fines torn-up; a consumer whose Macintosh computer doesn't work properly and wants the MP to take it up with Apple Inc; homeless people; rich people; the entire gamut of humanity's woes. 

    "I need feedback from the community. My door is always open and a wide range of people use that door." 

    Indeed, the electoral office is Greenwich's favourite spot, because he can take his pooch Max with him to sniff at constituents. 

    A new police commander is arriving in Kings Cross, so the MP will be in touch about anti-social behaviour, parking, drugs, booze and law enforcement. 

    In the good-bad old days under Labor, MPs had to get the Police Minister's permission to speak to a local area commander. The arrangements have been liberalised, and now members can go directly with their concerns to the senior copper on the spot. 

    A new bunch of Liquor Act amendments will soon be introduced relating to the installation of ID scanners in pubs, bars and clubs so that there will be an electronic footprint of problem and troublesome drinkers. 

    If they are tossed out of one venue the new system should make it possible for them to be banned from other local watering holes. Greenwich is concerned about how movements are tracked, who keeps this information and how it is managed. 

    Other pressing local issues include: 

    • The new planning law proposals, which seek to invest enormous power in the minister and reduce community consultation to virtually zero. 
    • New strata laws next year, for which Greenwich hopes to receive some helpful input from flat dwelling locals. 
    • Light rail rattling through Surry Hills (not exactly a 2011 problem - but one captain of industry from Devonshire St expressed his concerns). The options for resolving the problem seem to boil down to a tunnel or a viaduct. 

    The Potts Point Partnership decided that the MP should not be presented with the usual gift to thank him for his talk. Issues with the parliamentary disclosure register are not worth the candle. 

    At the breakfast I sat next to a small contingent from the Institute of Architects, whose headquarters are in Manning St. 

    It occurred to me that while the institute is busy campaigning against some of the excruciating features of Barangaroo, and in particular the plonking of a gambling den on public space, its prime tenant in the same building, Hon. P. Keating, is busy campaigning for the harbourside project and endorsing the Brancusi-like Packer casino. 

    Lizzy Wylde reporting 

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