LIVERPOOL COMMUNITY SERVICES
TRIBUTE TO PHIL TOLHURST
Ms ALISON MEGARRITY
(Menai) [1.15 p.m.]: Members would be aware of the terrible inferno that engulfed Liverpool City Council's administration building and council chambers on Sunday 15 August 2010. The council staff as a whole should be commended for their sterling efforts in unfamiliar working conditions to deal with the shock of the incident and yet keep council services operational for ratepayers. One might have hoped that the band of elected members too might have risen like a phoenix from the ashes to act more professionally and truly put the interests of our community above their petty past behaviour. Sadly, one would be disappointed if one did hold that hope.
I will highlight two decisions taken at the 30 August meeting that are an assault on local families and others who can least afford for council to slash and burn community services. The councillors considered a report that examined the feasibility of selling council child care centres, leasing them, increasing fees, not providing food or continuing to subsidise them. The Liverpool Leader
front page article said it all. The headline read, "Child Care Costs Soar—Burden on Families set to Increase". In the edition of the Liverpool City Champion
on the same day, local mother Jackie Frew said that the proposed increases are another example of council's "appalling" attitude towards something which the community expects it to provide. For the record, I should point out that the recommendation adopted by the council included the advertisement of the proposed increased fees and charges for a period of 28 days with a further report to council at the end of the exhibition period. I will be making representations to council on this issue and I urge everyone to do the same.
No such formal opportunity for community consultation is possible on another item considered at the same meeting about the closure of a number of local branch libraries, including one in my own electorate at Moorebank. There was some reference to the fact that the main Liverpool City Library and Moorebank library are only approximately 4 kilometres apart. What that statement fails to acknowledge is the issue of access for many residents on our side of the Georges River. An article on 8 September in the Liverpool Leader
picks up on this very point, noting that Moorebank library rates well against a range of accessibility standards. Mrs Betty Croft, who has frequented Moorebank library for more than 20 years, has advised me of the difficulties that its closure would cause her and other senior citizens. Access to the city library for seniors is difficult with no free parking in close proximity. Local resident Pam Browning told me:
My daughter has a family of young children and they live in walking distance to Moorebank library ... Moorebank library consistently offers excellent service and in school holidays in particular offers very interesting and rewarding activities for children. There are many members of the local community, including seniors, who use the computers, the Internet facilities and lending services.
This is just a sample of the feedback from my constituents on this issue and highlights the added frustration about the lack of community consultation. Another local, Shayne Denford, has gone to the extent of setting up a Facebook page called Save Moorebank Library. Local residents are angry—and rightfully so.
It is worth noting that both the library and child care proposals were fully considered—but rejected—by Gabrielle Kibble, the council's former administrator. As I have said previously, in so many ways the glorious return of democratic election to Liverpool with our current councillors has not served us very well. The most astounding point is that these people think they are really doing a fantastic job. All I have ever wanted them to realise is that their role should be one of selfless community service. It is not about pettiness or self-promotion. Of course, those holding the numbers on the floor of council have publicly vilified me for pointing out the inadequacies and poor performance of the majority of councillors. No doubt my remarks today on behalf of our community will also draw more venom in my direction.
In the time remaining, I will remind members that, like the member for Macquarie Fields, I also have previously detailed certain activities and circumstances leading to the resignation of the council's capable and caring general manager, Mr Phil Tolhurst. I had quietly hoped that if ever sanity returned to the council chambers perhaps, if we were very lucky, Phil might one day return to the position. That hope is now permanently abandoned as Phil died on the evening of 18 September 2010 at only 52 years of age, possibly of a massive heart attack. Liverpool councillor Anne Stanley moved a condolence motion at last night's council meeting and spoke eloquently of Phil's honesty, hard work, generosity, knowledge, vision and passion. Anne noted that he spent many hours working for Liverpool in the office and well outside business hours and there were countless occasions on which she would send him an early morning or late-night email and receive an immediate response. My experience was precisely the same. I recall that Phil once responded to me from a tent while on a camping weekend. As Anne also said last night:
Personally and professionally, Phil was well respected and cherished by the staff of council, Chamber of Commerce and other local business people, local members of Parliament and the residents of the greater Liverpool community.
It is my firm opinion that during the condolence motion last night there should have been other councillors hanging their heads in shame and pausing for heartfelt self-reflection about the unprofessional and uncaring way that they treated this wonderful man prior to his resignation. Once on the open market, others were quick to recognise Phil's talent and he was leading a task force looking at land and housing release across the State. Without doubt, Phil's overriding passion was his family. On behalf of my family, my staff and the wider community, I extend our deepest sympathy to Phil's much loved wife Judith, to Matthew and James, and other family, friends and colleagues. We will all miss this beautiful man in our lives.
ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr David Campbell):
Phil Tolhurst was a personal friend and constituent of mine. I thank the member for Menai for bringing to the attention of the House his sterling work at Liverpool. I know that a great number of people in the Woonona community are supporting Judith and their sons and daughters-in-law.
Dr ANDREW McDONALD
(Macquarie Fields—Parliamentary Secretary) [1.20 p.m.]: The first day I met Phil Tolhurst was a memorable and great day in my life. Phil was such a wonderful man and has always been an inspiration to me. He led by example rather than ruled by decree. His kindness, good humour, confidence and commitment to the people of Liverpool were rewarded by the love and loyalty of all who had the privilege of working both with him and for him. Each year he served drinks with me at Harry Hunt's Christmas dinner and the staff turned out in droves just to be with him.
Phil was a good and decent man who made the world a better place. He enriched us all with his too short presence on this earth. I caught up with Phil not long after he had left Liverpool council and he told me he was happy. His idea of fun was enjoying a Thai meal at Liverpool with his beloved wife, Judith. He only wanted to spend time with his family who he loved so much and who meant so much to him. On behalf of all State members of Parliament who knew Phil, I pass on our condolences to his family and to all those who knew this wonderful man.