Team Adelaide faction loses city council majority after Abiad quits

There is no longer a clear majority faction on the Adelaide City Council following the resignation of Team Adelaide architect Houssam Abiad – but divisions appear no less acute.

Jan 30, 2020, updated Jan 30, 2020
Houssam Abiad. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Houssam Abiad. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

The former Deputy Lord Mayor and Central Ward councillor abruptly quit the council late yesterday after 10 years, to focus on undisclosed “emerging business interests” in Australia and overseas.

In an email to fellow councillors yesterday afternoon, Abiad said he was embarking on new business ventures that would make it “untenable” for him to continue serving as a councillor.

Speaking on ABC Radio Adelaide this morning, Abiad said his resignation was a tough decision to make.

“I thought it would be best, in consultation with the Lord Mayor and my fellow councillors that I make the call, and sometimes you’ve just got to make the decision and I’m proud that I did,” he said, adding that he is currently overseas.

“It hasn’t been the easiest call to make, to be honest.

“It’s been very difficult – I’m very attached to our city and to our ratepayers, and to the cause of the city.”

His shock resignation means the Team Adelaide faction – members of which Abiad was involved in assembling as candidates ahead of the 2018 election – no longer has a working majority in the council chamber.

Those associated with the faction – Deputy Lord Mayor Alex Hyde, Area councillors Arman Abrahimzadeh and Franz Knoll, North Ward councillor Mary Couros and Central Ward councillor Simon Hou – now occupy five seats from a total of ten sitting elected members, until a supplementary election is held to replace Abiad.

The supplementary election process is likely to take months.

In the case of a 5/5 split vote in the council chamber, Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor retains a casting vote.

Area councillors Anne Moran and Rob Simms, and North Ward councillor Phil Martin have railed against the influence on the faction on city politics since the election.

In turn, some members of Team Adelaide, including Abiad, have accused the trio of impeding policy progress.

Simms told InDaily the by-election for Abiad’s vacant seat would be a “referendum on Team Adelaide”.

“Over the last 12 months, I have been inundated with calls and emails from city residents and ratepayers dismayed by the chaos and dysfunction they have seen in Town Hall,” he said in a statement.

“This election provides an opportunity to end all that.

“I hope it represents the beginning of the end of the tedious Team Adelaide saga.”

Moran and Martin have both emailed council colleagues this morning, encouraging other Team Adelaide affiliates to also resign.

Knoll told InDaily this morning he had no intention of resigning and knew of no reason that anyone else would, and argued that the end of a Team Adelaide majority would change little.

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He said that the council was full of individuals with diverse views who all wanted the best for the city.

“If anyone (took) a look at the decisions made there are a lot of very good decisions from all people that have gone through (the council chamber),” he said.

“There’s a whole diverse (set of) opinions with all the various individuals.

“The city wants us to make decisions … I don’t see in the first place that any (policy proposal) of substance or quality would have a problem.”

Hyde, considered Abiad’s heir-apparent as figurehead for Team Adelaide, told InDaily the faction had achieved significant results for the city, arguing the redevelopment of the Central Market Arcade would not have got over the line without its influence.

“If Team Adelaide wasn’t there, the Aquatic Centre would be on the backburner,” he added.

Hyde congratulated Abiad on his legacy for the city, citing the Ten Gig City fibre optic network and the redevelopment of Rundle Mall and Victoria Square among the long-time councillor’s central achievements.

South Ward councillor Helen Donovan, who is not aligned with Team Adelaide, said Abiad’s resignation was unexpected.

“Houssam’s resignation was a surprise – I wish him well,” she told InDaily.

“His resignation creates an opportunity for a new councillor to shift the existing dynamic in the (council) chamber.

“With significant projects underway, like the City Access Strategy, I am hopeful that the new addition will continue to strengthen the council’s focus on using the evidence-based advice we receive from our skilled and experience admin team (council staff) to implement the urban design changes we need to priorities health and wellbeing.”

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