Corruption buster, John Hatton, to give talk on empowering communities

FORMER independent MP John Hatton has called on the Southern Highlands to be awake to political corruption and incompetence.

Mr Hatton, who in 1994 led the push for the Wood Royal Commission into police corruption, which will see him played by John Waters in the latest Underbelly series.

He will also be at the centre of an ABC documentary in May titled The Inquisition.

He has pledged the rest of his life to empowering communities and individuals to fight for true democracy and will be the keynote speaker at a public meeting to be held at Bowral Community Hall on Tuesday.

“What we’re talking about in the Southern Highlands is clawing back our rightful place in democracy,” Mr Hatton said.

“Right across Australia, but particularly in NSW, there’s enormous concern about the corruption, incompetence, huge wastage of public money and the fact that parliament is not safeguarding the basic rights of citizens.”

Mr Hatton said there was a crisis of government at every level.

“The average person in the community has every right to feel powerless,” Mr Hatton said.

“Not only are their communities under threat by corruption of planning but now their private property is under threat.

“The point of the meetings I am attending across NSW is a ‘how to, you can, we must’ approach to community and individual empowerment and that is what I am spending the rest of my life on.

Mr Hatton said the beauty of the Southern Highlands was under threat.

“The Southern Highlands is one of the most beautiful areas in my view... but the beauty of the Highlands, its rural landscape and its lifestyle are under direct threat of being used as a bedroom suburb for overcrowded cities like Sydney,” he said.

Mr Hatton said there are local councils that have adopted true community-inclusive models.

“Phil Pearce (Mildura Rural City Council chief executive) and Monica Barone (City of Sydney CEO) are two city managers who have actually put in place community partnership programs where the community is truly a part of the decision making,” Mr Hatton said.

“It is the responsibility of the general manager as well as councillors to do this.

“The great difficulty is to get council officers to actually get out there and believe in community partnership because it is too easy to sit in the office and make the decisions but I am telling you it is not too difficult and it is much more satisfying to get true in-depth community engagement.”

Mr Hatton issued a challenge to the community and Wingecarribee Council.

“I want people to come, I want people to test me, I want them to criticise me and ask questions, to examine what I am saying - in other words I want a full-on meeting,” Mr Hatton said.

“I am hoping this will be the beginning of a new attitude, and I am hoping your local councillors will attend because councils are being sidelined by state government and unless they form a partnership with their communities then their communities couldn’t care less.

“If local government is really in tune and in partnership, I am talking about shared power here, then the community will support them against the state government.”

Wingecarribee general manager Jason Gordon said while he will not attend the meeting, he completely supports Council engaging with the community.

Mayor Duncan Gair confirmed he would attend but said there should be no negative inference made on Councillors who do not attend.

The open public meeting will be held at Bowral Memorial Hall from 7pm.

*COUNCILLORS rejected a motion to pay the hall hire cost for a public meeting that will be addressed by renowned corruption buster John Hatton.

The motion put forward by Jim Mauger received no support and sparked debate of the meetings intention.

The open public meeting will be held at Bowral Memorial Hall from 7pm.