When Will Ryde’s Suffering, Labor-leaning Voters Sing “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead”?

Puppetmaster Jan Burnswoods with her two latest puppets - Simple Simon and Laxettes

Two Puppets and Ryde’s Wicked Witch – Putting Personal Fifedom Before Progress


By a global collaboration of Save Ryde reporters

You may have already heard about Ryde’s non-Liberal councillors squandering their decisive numerical advantage (seven councillors versus five)  at this year’s Mayoral election.

Rookie councillors, Jerome Laxale and George Simon, decided to have a massive dummy spit and boycott the election, which took place during the September 10, 2013 council meeting.

Apparently there was no support for Laxale’s ambitious – and one would have to say “off with the fairies” – tilt at the Mayoralty, after serving just a quarter of his first term on council.


The Burnswoods* puppets have followed in the footsteps of the two female councillors they replaced – Nicole Campbell and Gabrielle O’Donnell – both of whom share the same puppet-master.

Collectively, the foursome’s standout shame at Ryde has been to empower the right wing-led agenda of the Liberal councillor bloc while abandoning the ideals of their party – justice and fairness being among them.

For Labor’s political opponents in and around Ryde, Burnswoods puppets are ‘the best show in town’ typically involving a relatively-talentless, often overly-ambitious politician, who is ultimately manipulated and controlled, directly or indirectly, by former Labor MLC Jan Burnswoods.

Burnswoods’ 16-year stint as a Labor NSW Upper House member came to an end in 2007, but someone forgot to tell her to take a step back and ease into retirement – instead, Ryde appears to have remained part of Burnswoods’ personal fifedom.

Of course, maintaining a stranglehold over Labor’s activities in the area necessarily involves resistance to change and stifling the party’s development and ability to realise any potential it may have, which explains why Burnswoods’ continued presence is celebrated by political opponents.

Laxale and Simon’s no-show at the Mayoral election and their lacklustre first year as councillors, translates in Ryde’s history books as yet another story of local politicians with talent deficits confirming through ill-considered actions that they don’t deserve to be elected representatives.

Laxalle and Simon have also demonstrated why Labor’s destructive left, has stunted Labor’s competitiveness in the Ryde and the federal  electorate of Bennelong.



This is not the first time Simon and Laxalle have tried their hand at influencing the result of the Mayoral election.

One of the pair’s first acts upon being elected to council in September 2012, was to betray their senior Labor colleague, Jeff Salvestro-Martin who was poised to become  Deputy Mayor with the support of the anti-civic centre bloc, to replace him with Justin Li.

The deal, as outlined by Simon, would apparently see Salvestro-Martin elected to the role at this year’s Mayoral election, with Laxale to be elected Mayor.

To maintain the necessary unity and maintain leadership on council, Salvestro-Martin did not challenge this.

Obviously, Salvestro-Martin’s colleagues seriously let him down again in the 2013 Mayoral election, but the plan to elevate Laxale to the Mayoralty garnered zero support from fellow councillors.

You really can’t blame the Liberal councillors for embracing the miracle opportunity gifted to them through Laxale and Simon’s political inexperience and self-serving contribution to political process.

Chance delivered the conservatives the Mayoralty and Ryde’s ratepayers are extremely lucky it was the Liberal’s standout performer, Roy Maggio, that scored the gig.


Now in his sixth year on council, it is no secret that Cr Maggio has shown little enthusiasm for the civic precinct redevelopment that has divided council and wasted millions and has now resulted in an ICAC inquiry targeting councillors that stopped the project.

The anti-corruption body’s involvement comes despite uncomfortably close political relationships between key spruikers of the project and regulatory decision-makers in the NSW Government.

While the spectacular amounts splashed around in Bylong Valley mining licence inquiries are generally seen as an acceptable justification for the public inquiries that have publicly played out the spectacular allegations, there is significantly damper enthusiasm for the Ryde inquiry.

The cost of the Ryde inquiry is estimated to have surpassed $30m and so far have sought in a heavy-handed way to attack the former Mayor Ivan Petch, for what can only be described as the kind of indiscretions that take place in every LGA in the country.

And the recurring theme of those prosecuting ICAC’s case is that Ryde’s former Mayor Ivan Petch allegedly leaked documents.

But in focusing what would be relatively minor indiscretions of the sort that almost certainly feature in every LGA in Australia, ICAC has willingly turned a blind eye to significantly more serious corruption that happens to be the focus of the allegedly leaked documents.

Cr Maggio, to his credit, has kept himself busy with community focused initiatives and aims, his achievements outshining his colleagues and the former general manager, John Neish, who had an unhealthy obsession with a civic precinct redevelopment which was neither compelling in its commercial appeal nor popular among Ryde’s residents.

Cr Maggio has concentrated his efforts on the many worthwhile sporting groups in the area, leading the charge against unsightly graffiti, campaigning for more open space and leveraging council resources to strengthen Ryde’s community infrastructure.

But there’s an elephant in the room – and that’s the uncertainty about the grossly unpopular Civic Centre plan being dead and buried forever.

Councillors and community activists alike believe the recent abuse of regulatory powers, including the probing powers the DLG and the EFA, point to the likelihood of a shakeup on council and bureaucrats assuming responsibility for major development.

Even if that doesn’t happen, there are other factors posing a potential threat.

With a Liberal occupying the Mayoral post, Cr Maggio’s fellow councillors, including one who has a dual role of paid political lobbyist, may just have a crack at resurrecting the overwhelmingly unpopular Civic Centre plan.


If Laxale and Simon genuinely felt the twin towers fiasco was something to be avoided at all costs – like they did in their council election campaigns – they would never have left even the slightest possibility open for it to make a comeback.

These Ryde Council debutantes have instead betrayed the community, their own party and the financial wellbeing of council, through treachery, political selfishness and – as clearly demonstrated by Laxale’s Mayoral aspirations – a complete detachment from reality.

Ratepayers should remember this the next time their fate is decided at the ballot box.

(*Many people ask who Burnswoods is. Her name is Jan Burnswoods and she was an unpopular and divisive figure in the ALP and a member of the NSW upper house. While her political career faded away on her retirement in 2007 after 16 years as a Labor member of the NSW Upper House, she remains territorial when it comes to the politics of Ryde and its surrounding areas. She regularly meddles with campaigns and preselections and has led the resistance to renewal of the party’s ageing membership when Labor Club members of Macquarie University, mainly aligned with the right faction, attempted to join local branches. Along with that key contribution to muzzling fresh ideas, she has also interfered with local government politics by directing various inexperienced elected Labor councillors to carry out acts which have ultimately served to empower the Liberal conservatives in Ryde.)


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