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Unrest about Lord Mayor's list of favoured candidates

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A city resident running in the upcoming council elections has questioned why Lord Mayor Martin Haese has endorsed a list of candidates before nominations have closed, saying the move “does nothing to dispel rumours that a preferential faction exists”.

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Haese has confirmed that he won’t be allocating preferences but rather will be personally endorsing a list of current councillors and new candidates.

He announced that list last week, despite earlier telling InDaily he wouldn’t name the candidates until nominations close on September 18.

While the Lord Mayor said there may be more candidates added to his list, that hasn’t satisfied south ward candidate Phil De Bondi, who has a meeting scheduled with Haese tomorrow.

De Bondi, a physiotherapist who works in the public health system, told InDaily that he was disappointed in Haese’s move.

To come out and endorse candidates before meeting all of them or even before nominations have closed is disappointing and does nothing to dispel rumours that a preferential faction exists,” he said.

“I appreciate that there’s nothing technically wrong with it, but ethically does it truly allow the community to choose its leaders or does it unfairly stack the deck in a particular direction? Given the Lord Mayor’s media exposure, it’s already unfairly biasing (towards) the chosen few, some of whom would have been barely known otherwise.”

De Bondi pointed to Haese’s trenchant criticism of Jay Weatherill in the lead-up to the 2014 council elections when the then Premier endorsed Stephen Yarwood as Lord Mayor.

He said Haese had found himself in a similar position then to non-endorsed candidates now, “when a person in a position of greater power and influence commented on their preferred candidate”.

At the time Haese described Weatherill’s endorsement of Yarwood as “incredibly distasteful”.

“It absolutely changes the tone of the debate. I’m disgusted,” Haese said.

De Bondi said he was politically non-aligned and had decided to run for council to make the city a better place for families to raise their children.

Haese’s favoured list includes sitting council members Houssam Abiad, Anne Moran and Priscilla Corbell-Moore, as well as candidates Arman Abrahimzadeh, Rick Carter, Mary Couros, Simon Hou, Alex Hyde, Stephanie Johnston, Sanja Jovanovic, Quentin Kenihan,  Franz Knoll, Betty-Jean Price, Sam Taylor and Dan Turner.

InDaily has reported widely on disquiet about the formation of a group, known as “Team Adelaide”, to contest the council elections.

Haese and Abiad have both denied being involved in a “group” of that name.

A candidate for south ward, Dr Helen Donovan, previously told InDaily that Abiad tried to recruit her to join a group of candidates whose purpose was to form a majority faction to control the next Adelaide City Council using a comprehensive preference deal, linking a target number of 19 candidates.

Another insider, who declined to be named, said the group had planned to develop a joint policy platform but had abandoned this idea after coverage by InDaily.

Haese said yesterday he had previously been open-minded about running a preference ticket but had decided that he wasn’t comfortable doing so, despite allocating preferences in his successful run for Lord Mayor in 2014.

Long-term councillor Anne Moran told InDaily today that while she welcomed Haese’s endorsement of her re-election, she wasn’t part of the “team” and hadn’t attended their meetings.

She said, however, that she was comfortable that the group – described by Haese as “quite informal” – would not wield undue influence on the election or its aftermath, due to the difficulty of directing preferences to achieve a particular result in a system of voluntary voting with low turnout.

“I’m comfortable that the rigours of our electoral system will (result in) the right thing,” she said.

However, Moran said there was a risk that the group could lead to ructions in the future council, given those left out of the endorsed team might feel aggrieved.

“I am worried that it, potentially, could set up a factionalised council,” she said.

The city council will hold its final full meeting tonight before the caretaker period begins.

InDaily has asked Haese for his response to De Bondi’s criticism.

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