SA Life

Get CityMag in your inbox. Subscribe
August 5, 2022

Why Phil Martin isn’t gunning for Lord Mayor

City councillor Phil Martin says he's dropped out of the mayoral race to avoid "relentless, personal attacks” from Team Adelaide, but he's hopeful another potential Lord Mayor candidate will be able to rein in the dysfunction at Town Hall.

  • Words and pictures: Angela Skujins

At an Adelaide City Council meeting in mid-July, elected members supported a motion to bring a portion of a controversial, formerly confidential report into the public realm.

The documents revealed were two appendices from the Cultural Investigations Report, which was first presented to council confidentially in September 2020.

North Ward councillor Mary Couros, of majority voting block Team Adelaide, moved that these appendices be included in the minutes of the July meeting. Team Adelaide supported the motion, and the documents are now publicly available.

One of the appendices includes anonymous survey responses from Adelaide City Council staff, in which respondents were asked to mark from zero (‘unable to comment’) to 10 (‘strongly agree’) in relation to statements such as whether they enjoy working for the organisation, if they are “embarrassed” by elected members’ behaviour, and whether this behaviour had taken a toll on their mental health.

The other document Team Adelaide voted to make public includes comments from the survey’s ‘further feedback’ section. It includes general statements from staff on how interactions could be improved to make Town Hall a better workplace.

Veteran North Ward councillors Phil Martin and Anne Moran were identified in two of the section’s 80 responses, which inferred the two exhibited “poor behaviour”. Another of the 80 responses stated “three” elected members were responsible for the respondent’s “negative feedback”. The third councillor was not named.


Update: Since this story published Rex Patrick confirmed to InDaily he did intend to run for Lord Mayor.

The trove of information was released on 18 July, and three weeks later Phil announced via a letter drop he was pulling out of the mayoral race in the upcoming council election. The letter stated he would instead back for mayor a possible, but as yet unannounced, contender – former senator and self-anointed “Transparency Warrior”, Rex Patrick.

Part of the reason Phil chose to withdraw from the mayoral race, he tells CityMag in an exclusive interview, is to avoid being the target of “relentless, personal attacks” by Team Adelaide.

And he says it’s curious Team Adelaide voted to release the results of the study recently, weeks out from the election, considering the investigation was “forgotten”.

If badgering is getting the information I need to make informed decisions about such things as budgets [then] yes, I’m guilty of that.
—Phil Martin


“I can’t possibly contemplate putting my family through a nasty mayoral campaign,” Phil says from within the plush Treasury 1860 cocktail bar and restaurant, located next to Adelaide Town Hall.

“Most importantly, I think there’s someone who’s got the skills to do a better job than I [can].”

That someone is Rex Patrick, whose mayoral candidacy is still hypothetical.

Despite dipping out of contention for Lord Mayor, Phil’s time in council is not over. The former ABC and SBS senior media executive and business owner says he’s not finished advocating for his North Adelaide ratepayers.

“I will be standing in North Ward to represent the people of North Adelaide,” he says.

“The work in North Adelaide that needs to be done in the coming term of council is enormous. North Adelaide has, for five years, suffered enormously during the tenure of Team Adelaide.”


New here? Sign up to receive the latest happenings from around our city, sent every Thursday afternoon.

Asked to reflect on the role he played in the highly reported dysfunction within the council chamber, Phil says his “principal transgression”, as identified in the report, is that he asks too many questions.

“I plead guilty,” he says. “I have asked lots of questions. There are a heap of questions to be asked about serious issues, which are being kept from the people of Adelaide.”

Lately, Phil has set his sights on the newly minted Adelaide City Council subsidiary, the Adelaide Economic Development Agency, set up in early 2021 to “accelerate economic growth in the city and North Adelaide”, according to its website.

“I had and have repeatedly asked for the budget for the Adelaide Economic Development Agency. That has never been provided,” Phil says.

“Next week, I will be launching a Freedom of Information request for the documents, which should have been provided to the under the provisions to the Local Government.

“If badgering is getting the information I need to make informed decisions about such things as budgets, [then] yes, I’m guilty of that.”

Nominations for the Adelaide City Council general elections close on 6 September, with the scrutiny and count on 12 September.

Share —