Note: this post was submitted as an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald, so hopefully that explains the style in which it was written. As it happened, Fiona Byrne, the Mayor of Marrickville who was at the centre of this particular debate, wrote her own piece which was published in the Herald instead. I can't imagine why they would have wanted something from the Mayor herself rather than an unknown academic, but there you go...! Anyways, it's reproduced here because I might as well not waste the work, and I'm sure this blog will soon have a circulation the size of the Herald's...
Over the last couple of weeks, there has been a loud debate in Sydney over Marrickville Council’s potential participation in the Boycott, Divestment and Santions movement against Israel. The debate has drawn attention not only to politics in the Middle East, but also to the role of local government in Sydney.
In arguing against the boycott, its opponents have frequently attacked or derided the notion that a local government should take action on political issues which extend beyond its boundaries – in this case to the other side of the world. Newly-elected NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell has told Council in no uncertain terms that the role of local government is to focus on roads, rubbish and rates, and has taken the extraordinary step of threatening to sack the Council if the boycott goes ahead. The Sydney Chamber of Commerce and the Jewish Board of Deputies have also both criticized Council’s involvement in matters of foreign investment and policy. More light-heartedly, a Herald editorial made merry at the prospect of Marrickville Council sending troops to Israel if diplomacy failed.
Whatever the merits of this specific boycott proposal, we should reject the notion that local governments should not action on matters that extend beyond their borders. We live in an increasingly inter-connected and globalised world, and local governments have a vital role to play in helping us to take action on a whole range of issues across a variety of scales.