Ted Mack (politician)

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Ted Mack
Member of the Australian Parliament
for North Sydney
In office
24 March 1990 – 29 January 1996
Preceded by John Spender
Succeeded by Joe Hockey
Personal details
Born (1933-12-20) 20 December 1933 (age 81)
Nationality Australian
Political party Independent
Spouse(s) Wendy
Alma mater University of New South Wales
Occupation Architect

Edward Carrington (Ted) Mack (born 20 December 1933) is an Australian politician. He is the only person ever to have been elected and re-elected as an independent to local, state, and federal government in Australia, and is often referred to as the "father of the independents". He chose to serve for only two terms in both the New South Wales state seat of North Shore and the federal seat of North Sydney to avoid receiving a parliamentary pension.[1]

Ahead of the 2015 North Sydney by-election, Mack re-entered the federal political arena by announcing he would steer the campaign of independent candidate Stephen Ruff.[2][3][4]

Early life[edit]

Mack was born in the Sydney suburb of Paddington and educated at Sydney Boys High School, graduating in 1950. He completed national service in the RAAF in 1951-1952 at Albury NSW.[5] At the University of New South Wales, he trained as an architect, graduating with a Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) in 1958. Following graduation, he married Wendy, with whom he has two daughters and two sons. He and his wife travelled to Europe and worked in London 1958-61. Returning to Australia he worked as an architect mainly on hospitals and public housing until 1974 and in private practice until 1980.[6] He supervised the construction of the Port Kembla district hospital (1961-63) and was later appointed as Architect-in-charge of Hospital design and construction at the NSW. Public Works Department in 1966. In 1972 he was appointed as Assistant Chief Architect at the NSW Housing Commission. In 1975, he was appointed to a committee chaired by Dr Coombs (former Governor of both the Commonwealth and Reserve Banks) to monitor and advise on Aboriginal housing in remote areas of Australia. Between 1974 and 1980, Mack also was a part-time tutor at UNSW in architecture (1974-80).

Political career[edit]

Mack began to take an interest in politics in 1970 after the North Sydney Council approved construction of a 17-storey office block near his back fence. He subsequently ran for election to the council in 1974 and was successful. He was re-elected in 1977, 1980, 1983 and 1987. He was elected by the council as mayor in 1980,1981,1982 and re-elected by popular vote in 1983 and 1987 and retired in 1988.[6] He began his term as mayor by selling the mayoral Mercedes-Benz car to help buy community buses. For the next eight years he used his 1951 Citroen as the mayoral car at no cost to the ratepayers. He relinquished his private architectural practice on becoming mayor.

He introduced open government policies making all council meetings, committees and council files open to the public. There were no meetings of any sort from which the public or press were excluded while he was mayor. Public participation in decision making was created through the establishment of some 24 precinct committees, some 3000 public meetings and 36 referenda over his 8 years as mayor. Council adopted the view that all decision making is ultimately the right of the public not aldermen – irrespective of the merits of the public decision. He initiated a policy of raising funds from sources other than rates, with the result that rates fell from 66% of council's income in 1980 to 38% in 1987. In that year North Sydney was named as the top Sydney council in an independent financial analysis. This enabled the council to establish a large public works program without using rates or loans to fund it. The works program consisted of several new and renovated parks, four multi-storey car parks, four new childcare facilities, four renovated community centres and one major new community centre, four new tennis centres, two renovated public swimming pools, major library extensions, major renovations to North Sydney Oval, over one hundred new public housing dwellings (funded by the State Government), major streetscape improvements throughout the municipality, seats, signs, footpaths, lighting, forty bus shelters, some 50,000 street trees and a substantial number of commercial and retail establishments providing an income stream for council. Mack ensured that his name was not on any of the opening plaques for these facilities. He received a 90% vote at the 1987 mayoral election.

In 1981, he decided to run as an independent for the recently created New South Wales Legislative Assembly seat of North Shore, based around North Sydney.[6] On paper, it was a comfortably safe Liberal seat; the North Shore has been the power base for the Liberals (and their predecessors) in Sydney for over a century. Mack nominated for the seat after noticing that it was virtually coextensive with the North Sydney LGA. He faced Bruce McDonald, the leader of the Liberal opposition in NSW. Mack considered that being both mayor and state member for electorates that covered nearly identical boundaries would make both positions more effective. The voters apparently agreed, and elected him over McDonald in one of the few times a major-party leader has been defeated at any level in Australia. Mack did not accept a mayoral allowance for the next seven years. He was returned by handsome margins in 1984 and 1988, the latter election coming as the Coalition won government in a landslide. Shortly after his 1988 victory, he abruptly retired from all of his offices. He did so just two days before he was due to qualify for his parliamentary pension entitlements in excess of $1,000,000, and decided to retire as a protest against the excesses of public political office. His retirement from both local and state government resulted in three by-elections for ward alderman, mayor and state member. All three people he recommended for these positions were elected.

Despite living nearby, for a time, he refused to travel across the Sydney Harbour Bridge or through the Sydney Harbour Tunnel in protest at the secret contract and awarding of all tolls to Kumagai Transfield for 30 years.

Federal politics[edit]

After 18 months out of politics, mainly camping in the outback, Mack achieved even broader fame by winning the federal seat of North Sydney in 1990. The seat had long been reckoned as a blue-ribbon Liberal seat; it had been held by the Liberals or their predecessors since Federation. However, Mack defeated incumbent Liberal MP and Shadow Foreign Minister John Spender on a large swing. He was re-elected in 1993.[7] During his tenure in federal Parliament, Mack opposed unilateral tariff removal, many of the privatisations and was the only vote against Australian involvement in the Gulf War. In his speech on 22 Jan 1991, Mack said:

This war is about oil, because 40 per cent of the world's oil reserves are in this area. This war is about years of greed, of intrigue, of malevolence by local despots and the developed world. Saddam Hussein is a Frankenstein monster created over the last decade by the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, China, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and other western European countries that supplied him with billions of dollars of armaments, and with the technology for chemical and nuclear warfare. France built Saddam's nuclear reactor. In the years 1983 to 1989, United States trade with Iraq increased from $571M to $3.6 billion. Only one month before the invasion, the United States Department of Commerce tried to push through a $7.6m deal to sell Iraq nuclear parts.

He successfully opposed the appointment of an Indonesian general involved in East Timor, as ambassador to Australia. He also introduced a private members bill for citizen initiated referendums as practised in Switzerland. He served on the transport and communications committee for six years.

Mack chose to retire from federal parliament at the 1996 election for the same reason he had previously chosen to retire from state parliament − to avoid receiving a parliamentary pension.[1] Facing little preselection competition for a candidacy that required the defeat of Mack, Joe Hockey was preselected as the Liberal Party of Australia candidate in North Sydney. Had Mack's intention to retire at the 1996 election been known earlier, Hockey would have faced a more rigorous preselection contest for the normally safe Liberal seat.[4]

Mack was elected as an independent Republican delegate to the 1998 Constitutional Convention.[7] He opposed the model favoured by the Australian Republican Movement. Along with Clem Jones, he was a director of Real Republic and was appointed to the official ten person "no" committee for the 1999 referendum.

In 1997, Ted Mack was elected as 1 of 100 "National Living Treasures" in an election organised by the National Trust of Australia. Since his retirement from federal parliament he has been an occasional media political commentator and was chosen to deliver the 2013 Sir Henry Parkes Oration entitled "The State of the Federation" at Tenterfield N.S.W.[8]

2015 North Sydney by-election[edit]

Ahead of the 2015 North Sydney by-election scheduled to be held on 5 December, amid claims of "widespread discontent for the Liberal pre-selection factional fix of Trent Zimmerman" and in the absence of a Labor candidate, Mack re-entered the federal political arena by announcing he would steer the campaign of independent candidate Stephen Ruff, who has the support of some now-disgruntled Liberal supporters. A senior orthopaedic surgeon at Royal North Shore Hospital, Ruff was a late entrant into the 2015 New South Wales state election, and despite no financial or campaign support and facing both veteran Liberal incumbent Jillian Skinner and a Labor candidate in the overlapping state seat of North Shore, Ruff still managed a vote in excess of 10 percent. Regarding the North Sydney by-election, Mack stated "I've never seen an election where a Liberal candidate is so disliked by such a lot of Liberal members and Liberal voters". Leaked emails show potential voters were sent registration forms at 7:30 pm on a Thursday and asked to signal their availability, with the cut-off for replying by noon the next day, and additionally, advance notice of the e-mail and cut-off was provided to Zimmerman's backers. It is claimed up to 550 Liberal branch members were unable to vote after the Liberal state executive pushed through a shortened pre-selection process to select Zimmerman, who is also head of the body that sets the rules for Liberal pre-selections, which has been claimed as a "complete conflict of interest". Mack also claimed that much of the electorate was angered that the outgoing Joe Hockey, who penned the "age of entitlement" speech, had forced a $1-million by-election within a year of the next Australian federal election, with the expectation of becoming the next Ambassador of Australia to the United States.[2][3][4]


Parliament of New South Wales
Preceded by
New seat
Member for North Shore
Succeeded by
Robyn Read
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
John Spender
Member for North Sydney
Succeeded by
Joe Hockey