WALLSEND MP Sonia Hornery has accused the Labor-led Newcastle council of pro-privatisation policies in relation to the City of Newcastle's suburban swimming pools, in a continuation of the previously internal political battle reported in today's Newcastle Herald.
As the Herald reported this morning, Ms Hornery has raised concerns about the way the council manages its pools, with Labor councillors in turn accusing the veteran state MP of "disrespecting" them and the council.
The stoush has also shed light on the political ambitions of Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen, who has denied wanting to replace Ms Hornery at the March 2023 state election.
Ms Hornery was recently endorsed unopposed as Labor's candidate for Wallsend, and Cr Clausen on Sunday that said his support for Ms Hornery was evidenced by his signing of her nomination form.
He had said he was interested in standing for the seat, but only if Ms Hornery was to retire at the end of another term, which she would be expected to win next March.
Today, in response to Ms Hornery's statement to the Herald, reported here, he said: "People spreading false information are seeking to undermine Labor candidates and councillors.
"I have sought to address disagreements internally, following due process. As an active Labor councillor, I will be supporting the re-election of our Labor MPs."
In her public statement this morning, Ms Hornery said the Labor Party "should not sheltered from scrutiny" but it was "disappointing that internal Labor branch matters have been aired publicly".
"While I have no intention of commenting on the specifics of any branch matters, I will say that I remain committed to ensuring all levels of the Labor Party, whether they are local, state or federal, stand against the privatisation of public assets," Ms Hornery said.
Asked if she was referring to the council's pools, Ms Hornery said, in writing: "Yes."
Evoking the name of Labor opposition leader Chris Minns, who is due in Newcastle this afternoon, Ms Hornery said: "I have always had a strong track record of standing against privatisation across all levels of government, indeed it is well known that I lost my position as Parliamentary Secretary in 2009 due to my stance on opposing privatisation.
"I am pleased that NSW Labor Leader, Chris Minns, shares the view opposing privatisation."
As far as the Herald can tell from various ALP sources, the present blowup was triggered by a notice of motion passed at Ms Hornery's Wallsend Labor Party branch in early September.
The Wallsend branch motion said, in part: "City of Newcastle Council, under Labor Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes and Deputy Lord Mayor, Declan Clausen, are proposing to continue leasing Wallsend, Lambton, Mayfield Stockton (and privatising Beresfield pools?) long term to a private provider.
"Privatised pools, particularly Wallsend pool, have been a continuous saga of unresolved problems. For example, repeated closures due to questionable management.
"As Member for Wallsend, I am frequently contacted by constituents concerned about substandard maintenance to our local pools. When was the last comprehensive upgrade of our pools, apart from the inner-city free ocean pools? I can answer that, for over a decade I've consistently swam at our urban pools. It has not happened.
"This branch urges the City of Newcastle to honour the 2017 pledge for public ownership of assets by taking back control of Council pools including budgeting now for upgrades."
Cr Nelmes told the Herald that the claims made in the motion were untrue.
"The question need to be asked, why is Sonia Hornery making false and untrue statements to [ALP] members?," Cr Nelmes said.
"Is it to hide inaction on Wallsend flooding or pools funding? Our community deserves better and that will alway be my priority"
The notice of motion backed by Ms Hornery was responded to at an ALP local government committee meeting at Stockton RSL on Sunday, with the Lambton, New Lambton and Kotara South branch of Cr Nelmes, Cr Clausen and two other Labor councillors endorsing the council's operation of its pools.
The motion said, in part: "Having been denied the opportunity to respond directly at Wallsend Branch, notes the comprehensive written response provided by the Deputy Lord Mayor to Sonia Horney MP on behalf of the Labor Councillor Caucus on 2 September 2022.
"Notes that despite more than a month passing no response has been received from the Member for Wallsend to this correspondence. Instead misinformation has continued to be circulated by the Member for Wallsend to other Labor branches, including branches outside the Wallsend electorate.
The pro-council resolution acknowledged issues raised by Ms Hornery in 2019, but said there had been no communication with either Cr Nelmes and Cr Clausen or Labor councillors Peta Winney-Bartz (Ward Three) or Carol Duncan (Ward 2).
"In fact, it appears the most recent conversations Ms Hornery has had regarding pools is with new Liberal councillor Callum Pull".
Cr Peta Winney-Baartz issued a statement responding to Ms Hornery "on behalf of Labor councillors".
"Local government is often the punching bag of State government when they can't deliver for the community.
"I call on the State Member to respect her local government councillors, their work and not use them to further her own political agenda.
"I welcome Sonia's commitment to public services and look forward to her campaign to bring our buses and electricity poles and wires back into public hands, and the thousands of public service jobs in Newcastle and Wallsend this will create.
"I also look forward to Sonia's advocacy for State Funding for an all year round aquatic facility in Newcastle."
The Herald is seeking to clarify Newcastle pool policies from the City of Newcastle.
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