Illawarra Mercury – Uproar Over Live Animal Circuses Hits Wollongong

Illawarra Mercury
Thursday May 3, 2007


THE days when families in Wollongong could see wild animals perform at the circus may soon be numbered.

An animal liberation group is lobbying councillors to ban circuses which use exotic animals from performing on council grounds.

Their views have gained support among some who believe live-animal performances encourage cruel practices.

Animal liberation group Voiceless last week contacted all Wollongong councillors.

At the moment, circuses with exotic animals are permitted within the city, with the council liaising with the RSPCA to monitor the animals’ treatment.

Nearby Wingecarribee Shire Council has just banned exotic animal circuses on public land after being lobbied by Voiceless.

Deputy Mayor Nick Campbell-Jones said the council fought hard to push through the changes despite a community backlash against the idea.

“For anyone to argue that you should have a lion in a small cage is wrong … I mean, human freak shows were legal 80 years ago,” he said.

Voiceless member Barry Spurr said the circuses set a bad example for children.

“What we are trying to achieve is that Wollongong City Council will follow the approach of other councils and stop the circuses on council-controlled land,” he said.

But Jan Lennon, who owns Stardust Circus and the 113-year-old Lennon Bros Circus, said claims of animal cruelty were false and anyone who worried about the animals’ treatment should go to the circus and judge for themselves.

“We would never use the training methods they accuse us of,” she said.

“And there is no way we would tolerate any cruelty to the animals.”

Both Kiama Municipal Council and Shellharbour City Council have no policy prohibiting the use of land for live animal circuses.

Wollongong councillor Andrew Anthony said he would consider the proposal.

“In the 21st century I do not think there is a place for circuses with wild animals,” he said.

Lord Mayor Alex Darling said circuses with animals were very popular in the area.

“At the last circus I heard rave reviews and the people that attended seemed very happy,” he said.

Illawarra Mercury Article – ICAC failed to act on councillor’s complaints BY PAUL MCINERNEY 07 Mar, 2008


Former Wollongong councillor Andrew Anthony pictured yesterday with the reply he received from ICAC. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

ICAC failed to act on councillor’s complaints

07 Mar, 2008 03:00 AM

Sacked Wollongong councillor Andrew Anthony wrote to the Independent Commission Against Corruption more than three years ago to blow the whistle on council planning processes, including cosy relationships between developers and councillors.

The corruption watchdog responded on December 2, 2005, saying his complaints did not appear to involve serious and systemic corrupt conduct and that it did not intend pursuing the matter.

Yesterday, Mr Anthony told the Mercury he decided to break his self-imposed silence in light of the dramatic events which unfolded at ICAC’s public inquiry in recent weeks.

“It’s also to let the people out there accusing independent councillors of doing nothing about what has been revealed by ICAC that some of us did try,” Mr Anthony said.

He revealed he had made two anonymous telephone calls to ICAC a few months before writing and signing his letter of complaint on November 2.

In the letter he made three specific allegations.

The first was that he and friends had witnessed a Labor councillor have a number of meals with a developer whose project the councillor later voted to approve and that the same developer had made significant donations to the Labor Party.

Mr Anthony said he did not want to make public the identity of the councillor, but said he was one of the four identified by ICAC Commissioner Jerrold Cripps as being at the heart of systemic corruption within council before his decision to recommend the council’s sacking.

Nor would he reveal the identity of the developer, who he said was not named at ICAC’s inquiry.

ICAC’s response was: “Councillors may vote on matters in which they have a non-pecuniary conflict of interest. Further, councillors may meet with developers and receive political donations.”

ICAC advised Mr Anthony that he could raise the matter with Rod Oxley, council’s general manager at the time, if the councillor failed to declare his interest in the matter.

Mr Anthony says he did not do so.

His second complaint involved an assertion that the council in early 2005 had ignored community opposition to a proposed subdivision.

ICAC said it did not consider this complaint corrupt conduct.

Mr Anthony’s third complaint, that he had been the subject of repeated threats from Labor councillors and that he feared for his safety, was a matter ICAC believed could be dealt with through the council’s Code of Conduct as a disciplinary matter.

This complaint was not referred by ICAC to council because Mr Anthony did not consent to the disclosure of his identity.

After a brief outline of the definition of corruption as defined under the Act, the ICAC assessment officer concluded his letter: “As the matter does not appear to involve serious and systemic corrupt behaviour, the ICAC does not intend to pursue the matter.

“The matter will now be referred to the Operations Review Committee for its advice as required under the ICAC Act.”

Mr Anthony said his concerns about the “abuse” of planning instruments, like SEPP1 in relation to height and floor space ration restrictions, were shared by other independent councillors at the time.

“It would be easy to say ‘told you so’, but the findings by the commissioner and the subsequent sacking of the council can give no-one any comfort,” Mr Anthony said.

“There were probably many complaints received by ICAC about what was going on, but I hope the concerns I raised may have helped in some way to bring about the investigation.”