John Hatton urges voters to exercise independence

Ageing political warhorse John Hatton was in Wollongong yesterday to help ensure the people of the city "get it right" on Saturday.The retired state politician, who has endorsed Helensburgh accountant Greg Petty for mayor, believes it is crucial for Wollongong to elect an independent leader."BlueScope's job cuts present a great challenge but if Wollongong stuffs up this time it will set things back a decade," he said.Mr Hatton, 78, who served as South Coast's outspoken independent parliamentarian and corruption fighter for 22 years, said he was more convinced than ever that political parties had no place in local government."This is a chance for the people to get it right, because if they get it wrong they will be saddled with a baby-kissing mayor and a dysfunctional council for five years."Mr Hatton said he met Mr Petty two years ago and was now convinced he was the person to lead the first post-administration council."Greg is a true independent and hasn't accepted a dollar from anybody either in this election or when he stood for Heathcote in the last state election," he said.Mr Hatton said the pair shared a vision for Wollongong and a council that paid more "than just lip service to community participation in decision-making"."They talk about consultation but what they mean is a prescriptive involvement which comes down to 'listen, mate - this is what you are going to get'," Mr Hatton said.On creating jobs, Mr Hatton said he and Mr Petty agreed it should involve the whole community."If you are asking a business to settle or transfer to your area you have to try to put yourself in their shoes and address questions like education and community resources," he said."It's up to a range of groups, clubs, and organisations in partnership with council to make those people feel welcome."Mr Hatton said this approach worked in the 1970s when for two years he was Shoalhaven's shire president and helped establish 46 new businesses.Mr Petty said he felt privileged to be endorsed by Mr Hatton."He is a direct, no-nonsense politician," Mr Petty said."While we are like-minded on many things, he never tries to influence my campaigns or the issues I feel are important."

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