Freedom of information and the rights of people to “straight answers” from all levels of government was the recurring theme of a talk given by trailblazing politician John Hatton this week.
Now 77, the former South Coast MP was first elected to Parliament in 1973 and is best known for playing a lead role in the fight against corruption.
On the back of Mr Hatton’s authorised biography is a quote that reads: “John Hatton took on the Mafia, exposed the underbelly of organised crime and its links with corrupt police. Threatened with death, living in a safe house, John and Vera survived.”
Last night he told Eurobodalla residents of his plan to come out of retirement and resume that fight, by standing a team of Independents in the Upper House at the next election.
He has a single purpose: to bring honesty to government decision-making.
Mr Hatton told those gathered at the CWA Hall in Moruya on Wednesday of his plans to introduce reforms that would increase openness, transparency and accountability to the way government decisions are made.
Mr Hatton was outspoken on the subject of local government, which appeared to be of great interest to those gathered for his talk, including councillors Graham Scobie and Chris Kowal.
“It’s an absolute and total bloody disgust that your former general manager was given $100,000 in the hand after being paid at the level he was for a job that doesn’t demand that sort of salary,” Mr Hatton said.
“The level of salaries in local government is too high.”
And, on the subject of information flow from council to the general public, he said: “You haven’t got a general manager if that general manager isn’t saying to those staff members, ‘You have an obligation to give a response to every member of the community’.”
During question time David Grace, of Broulee, said change had to start from below local government - an opinion Mr Hatton strongly endorsed.
“You have lost as individuals the power to have a voice,” Mr Hatton said.
“There are strong town groups, let’s start working them to say, ‘Hey, you’re our servants, you’re paid to do what we say’. Once you start to get your voice back, you will have a very strong group behind you.
“Go for it Eurobodalla, whatever structure you decide on, make it the heart of something creative.”