Oxley faces hard task to woo voters

Updated November 5 2012 - 11:59pm, first published April 8 2011 - 11:32am

The reaction of many readers to our story today that Rod Oxley is running for lord mayor will be "surely, he can't be serious?".How could a man found to have engaged in conduct conducive to corruption by the Independent Commission Against Corruption and whose council was sacked for systemic corruption think he could be given that privilege by the people of Wollongong?In many ways, Mr Oxley would be a great lord mayor.He intimately knows the workings of local government, is adept at getting things done, has ideas that could reinvigorate Wollongong and has an infectious passion for the city that he ran for 20 years.But there is, of course, more to his story than that.The Wollongong corruption scandal brought disgrace on all of us and Mr Oxley was a central character at the public hearings. ICAC found Mr Oxley fostered an environment in which corruption could occur, although he was not recommended for any criminal charges.This left him in an invidious position with a finding hanging over him but no opportunity beyond prohibitively expensive Supreme Court action to clear his name. (You will remember his book was an attempt at appealing to the court of public opinion.)If anything, Mr Oxley remains damned for his unabashed pro-development approach, which will come under harsh scrutiny again. That said, those who bemoan the city's stagnation may well embrace Mr Oxley's push into politics.In comparing his attempt to restore his reputation to the fall and rise of Wendell Sailor, however, Mr Oxley also stands to be criticised for failing to acknowledge the gravity of the corruption scandal. And why would he want to have the blowtorch applied again?Ultimately, will he be able to convince voters to ignore all this baggage? Will he be able to combat the barrage of opposition that will now be unleashed?Mr Oxley has nominated early to give him time to convince residents of why he is the man for the top job. For that, he will need to summon all his powers of persuasion.Whether he will succeed remains to be seen. What is certain is that in a place like Wollongong, anything is possible.

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