Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Vale Ted

A public memorial service will be held at Luna Park’s Grand Ballroom on Friday, November 30, starting at 9.30am. Ted Mack is survived by his wife of 60 years, Wendy, his four children and nine grandchildren.
We need independents like Ted Mack more than ever
Ted Mack tribute 

Edward Carrington Mack; December 20, 1933 - November 6, 2018

A pure model of public accountability by Malcolm Brown

Ted Mack moved through the political world as a shining beacon of ethics over a period of more than 20 years: in local government, which he entered in 1974, and in the state and federal spheres, brushing aside the corruption, cronyism, selfishness, greed and concentration of power he claimed was all around him.

Though not a rich man, Mack rejected a fortune in entitlements, thought always of the bigger picture of the public good and forever put matters directly to his constituents. Though not entirely without critics, he acquired a cult following and became a role model for those who aspired to a purer model of democracy and public accountability.

Edward Carrington (Ted) Mack was born in Paddington in inner Sydney on December 20, 1933, the only child of a taxi driver, David Edward (Ted) Mack, and Norma (nee Morthen). He grew up in the Depression era, spending much time helping his grandfather work as a construction supervisor on public buildings.
He went to Cleveland Street High School and spent his last two years at Sydney Boys’ High. Good at sport, especially cricket, Mack was also successful academically and, in 1950, enrolled in architecture at the University of NSW. He studied full-time for two years, and was then obliged to work part-time. He completed his course in 1957. In 1958, he married a Rural Bank employee, Wendy Loubet. Together they went to London to work, returning in 1961 with their first child, Jennifer.

As a young man, Mack spent four nights locked up, two being when he was caught swapping duties with another officer in the National Service, once while because of his part-Syrian ancestry he was mistaken in France for being an Algerian terrorist, and once in Eastern Europe after a visa mix-up. According to his family, that provoked in him an ongoing wariness of authority.

In Sydney, Mack resumed work as an architect, focusing on hospitals. His next three children arrived in rapid succession: Geraldine in 1961, Jeffrey in 1962 and Peter in 1963.
For two years, Mack supervised the construction of the Port Kembla Public Hospital. In 1966, he was appointed architect-in-charge for NSW public hospitals. He bought a modest house in North Sydney. With the help of his wife and fellow architects, he turned it into an impressive home, only to see a 17-storey office block erected virtually next door, seemingly out-of-keeping with the area.
He pursued his career, as assistant chief architect for the NSW Housing Commission, making him aware of Indigenous housing problems, but his political instincts had been aroused. Previously he had participated in a “Bring Back Utzon” campaign, now he aspired to government. In, 1974 he successfully stood for election to North Sydney Council. In 1975, he was appointed to a committee chaired by Dr H.C. Coombs to monitor and advise on Aboriginal housing in remote areas of Australia.
In 1980, Mack was elected mayor of North Sydney. He gave up his architectural practice, reduced his mayoral allowance and sold the mayoral Mercedes to buy a community bus. He proposed amendments to the residential flat code so as to preserve a village atmosphere, recommended that all spare council land go to public housing and decreed that, as far as practicable, all council meetings and its records should be open to the public.

North Sydney Mayor Ted Mack with his own driven mayoral car Citroen Light 15.
North Sydney Mayor Ted Mack with his own driven mayoral car Citroen Light 15.Credit:Fairfax
Mack wanted more direct public participation, through referenda, and through “precinct committees” to whom council matters could be referred. In the years that followed, he attended about 3000 public meetings and held 36 referenda. He reduced rates dramatically by having the council make its own money, through such things as building and leasing shops.
In 1981, Mack stood as an independent for the newly created seat of North Shore in the State Parliament and won it by defeating NSW Opposition leader Bruce McDonald. He remained mayor but gave up his mayoral allowance and handed back his parliamentary gold pass.
Mack introduced North Sydney‘s first heritage study and conservation plans. He opened a civic square near North Sydney’s CBD and fought to prevent the State Bank building in Martin Place being demolished. He opposed a second harbour crossing and the monorail, attacked the Wran government for treating the inner city like a plaything and sided with Sydney City Council independents in their resistance to the NSW government.

Ted Mack silencing the garbos with a trial of a later  7am bin collection, 1984.
Ted Mack silencing the garbos with a trial of a later 7am bin collection, 1984.Credit:Fairfax
Mack was re-elected North Sydney mayor in 1983 and the municipality flourished, with new and renovated parks, multi-storey car parks, new childcare facilities, renovated community centres and swimming pools, a major new community centre, new tennis centres, major library extensions and about 50,000 new street trees.
In 1987, after he introduced a direct popular vote for mayorship, he received 90 per cent of the vote. In 1988, re-elected to Parliament, he decided, just before he reached the milestone of seven years of service, entitling him to a parliamentary pension, to resign, thereby foregoing more than $1 million.
He also resigned from North Sydney Council, saying in passing that the “brown paper parcels” could “flow again at Christmas”, a remark which offended other councillors, some of whom cmplained he had become remote and autocratic, attacks which among others were echoed in the Mosman Daily. Mack said there should be a two-term limit for any parliamentarian, declaring anyone exposed to the government environment long enough would be adversely affected.
Mack did not stay still for long. In 1990, he stood for the federal seat of North Sydney and won it, defeating the federal opposition frontbencher, John Spender. In his maiden speech in Parliament, he spoke against “corrupt and secretive government”.

Independent federal MP for North Sydney Ted Mack.
Independent federal MP for North Sydney Ted Mack. Credit:Fairfax
In his federal career, he opposed unilateral tariff removal, privatisation, Sydney Airport’s third runway, and the diplomatic appointment to Australia of an Indonesian general tainted with the East Timor invasion.
He spoke out against Australia’s participation in the Gulf War, the sale of Qantas and the nuclear establishment at Lucas Heights. For six years, he served on the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Transport, Communications and Infrastructure. But he resisted to the end the idea of being an elitist decision-maker and in fact advocated a Citizens Initiated Referenda system as practised in Switzerland.
Re-elected to Federal Parliament in 1993, Mack continued until 1996, when he left just before he reached the seven-year mark and again purposefully missed a parliamentary pension. Mack made further forays into public life, but although an avowed republican, could not accept the model of a Parliament-appointed president.
In 2016 he was diagnosed with cancer, but held it off by participating in a global immunotherapy trial. After a stroke, he died on Tuesday, November 6.

A pure model of public accountability