FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) is one of the best marketing tools in the world. It is used to convince you of an argument without providing any evidence at all. It is being used now by the State Government to lever off the fear all councils have in the current “Fit for the Future” process.
FEAR that they will fail the scale and capability test, UNCERTAINTY about the discredited and divisive IPART process and DOUBTS about the Cabinet decision making process to name but three examples.
FUD is used to make you take decisions you wouldn’t normally take. It’s used to create disunity. And it works best when there is no evidence.
For instance the State Government has not come up with any evidence that “bigger is better” or that “council amalgamations are cost effective”. Indeed most of the evidence points the other way. FUD at its best with no evidence! But is there a deeper State Government agenda?
Let’s have a look at what the author of the Independent Local Government Review Panel (ILGRP) – Graham Sansom has to say in his May submission to IPART (page 4):
“In the case of the Sydney region, the Central Coast and the Lower Hunter the ILGRP was firmly of the view that wide‐ranging council mergers were essential as part of a broader agenda to improve metropolitan governance, planning and management.
Therefore, it is essential to note that (with the exception of Dungog Shire) the Panel’s arguments were based overwhelmingly on the need for councils to achieve adequate strategic capacity as units of government, as effective democratic institutions, and as valued partners of the State government in managing the future of Australia’s foremost ‘global city’.
Whilst some metropolitan councils need to improve various aspects of their financial performance, the revenue base available to them is generally more than sufficient for this to be achieved within their current boundaries. Similarly, the great majority have considerable scope to improve efficiency where necessary through changes to their own operations or through cooperation with others.
Thus contrary to views expressed in some quarters, the ILGRP did not base its case for metropolitan mergers on the need to improve financial sustainability or to achieve increased efficiency and cost savings as a primary objective.”
So there you have it, the State Government has provided no evidence to support “bigger is better” or amalgamations from a financial perspective because the real agenda is not about finance, it’s about governance, planning and management in the context of Sydney – Australia’s foremost “global city”.
In other words it’s about State Government reducing the powers of local government, reducing the powers of the community, increasing the likelihood of political parties controlling councils, bowing to the developer lobby and facilitating rampant development.
Remember FUD is used to make you take decisions you wouldn’t normally take – like agreeing to council amalgamations when the community is telling you NO. The State Government would be ecstatic if this were to happen. Why? Because:
- It doesn’t want to be the one to force amalgamations – these are almost impossible to do well and it will make the State Government extremely unpopular
- Far better to let councils be the unpopular and divisive ones. The State Government will say YOU proposed it. You live with it. It of course is a proposal which better meets the State Government’s planning and management needs, but does little to meet the communities’ needs and aspirations.
A FUD campaign is about creating Disunity through Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. About creating an environment in which you take the wrong decision. You combat FUD by keeping focused and Unified – Unity of the Council, all councillors, the Community and all its leaders.
By David Owen and Janet Forrester from CABPRA – a Pittwater community group under the umbrella of Pittwater Forever