A contest for MAV leadership

February 17, 2013

Dear MAV delegates,

this is just a courtesy email to inform you that I've today nominated for MAV President in the forthcoming elections along with incumbent Bill Macarthur and Whitehorse mayor Andrew Munroe (also one of 4 candidates in the Eastern Metro region).

After City of Melbourne re-joined the MAV as a financial member in December, the original intention was only to run for a regional board seat.

However, after canvassing Central Metro delegates, it became apparent that there would be multiple candidates in our region, all of whom have much to offer.

There was also much discussion that the long-serving President was likely to be gifted a third term without a contest. In a vibrant democracy, it is always healthy to have some competition for leadership positions, so here we are.

Time for change

There is clearly a mood for change in the sector, as demonstrated by the keen interest in MAV board positions from a range of delegates, partly in response to the 4 retirements.

At 43, I'm certainly no Geoff Lake, who was elected MAV President at just 24 in 2004! However, a switch in leadership in 2013 would still represent generational change in MAV's board and leadership, which could in turn lead to a new reform dynamic.

For starters, it will hopefully spread the word on the importance of openness and transparency in local government, as was explained by Michael Pascoe in this recent column for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.

At a time when integrity in public life is high in the public's consciousness courtesy of NSW scandals and Victoria's new IBAC, electing a genuinely independent MAV President with a strong public profile on governance issues would be a positive step forward.

I'm currently chair of the Finance and Governance committee at Melbourne and deputy chair of the Planning Committee. Unusually, I've also experienced life on two councils having served at the City of Manningham in Melbourne's eastern suburbs over the previous term. I was Manningham's MAV delegate for almost 18 months and supported colleague Geoff Gough, who is currently MAV metro vice president.

If elected MAV President for a two year term, I would resign from my other major commitment as Policy and Engagement Co-ordinator for the Australian Shareholders' Association, a role which involves considerable advocacy work similar to what the MAV does.

Melbourne Town Hall is about 200 metres from the MAV office in Collins Street, so there would also be plenty of logistical synergies and a reduction in travel expenses for the organisation.

Policy issues: getting behind the referendum

First and foremost, I'm hot to trot on constitutional recognition for local government and would hopefully be able to inject some political will and public profile into the debate.

The constitution is the most important governance document in Australia - yet our councils are not mentioned anywhere. The defeatist attitude to amending the constitution is a blot on our democracy.

The Gillard Government made a commitment, there are numbers in the Federal Parliament and Tony Abbott has offered Bipartisan support on the question of financial recognition, as was recommended by both the Expert Panel and the Parliamentary Committee.

As a sector we now need to ensure the question is put on September 14 and that the major parties all indicate a "Yes" vote on their how to vote cards. It's not that hard.

And don't for a moment buy this argument that somehow opposing state governments in WA and Victoria could run an effective "No" campaign along the lines that all Federal flood relief, roads to recovery, school chaplain programs and the like have to go through state government bureaucracies before reaching local councils and the communities they represent.

If that is tried on, the MAV will need to decisively engage in the public debate, including with the numerous MPs in state Parliament who are former councillors themselves, or those MPs who represent regional areas which are becoming increasingly dependent on federal funding in times of need.

As a professional speaker and someone who has done more than 1000 spots on ABC radio and appeared 3 times on Q&A, I'm up for the challenge of helping win this referendum campaign.

Some accountability for superannuation situation

As our peak body, the MAV has an important role to play in communicating with the sector and risk management.

Unfortunately, both of these elements weren't handled optimally with the latest $450 million cash hit on superannuation. The early warning systems didn't play well and it will show up in larger than expected rate rises across Victoria in 2013-14.

I was working for the Victorian Treasurer and Finance Minister when these defined benefit schemes were closed in 1993 and understand the dynamics of what needs to be done to reduce the likelihood of future calls.

There also needs to be some accountability at the Vision Super and MAV board level for what happened and how it was handled.

Time for a change

Like any institution, the MAV needs new ideas and fresh energy, yet sometimes it looks a little bit too comfortable and familiar.

Sure, the financials are fine but should there really be 4 members of the Insurance Committee who have served for more than 15 years? (See page 38 of the 2011-12 annual report.)

As a strong campaigner for more women on boards in recent years, it is also very pleasing to see that the MAV board may get close to a majority of females for the first time in its history after this election.

Such a move would reflect the changing times, ensuring Victorian local government remains at the forefront of progress in Australia.

Candidate details

It is great to see such a strong field of candidates and interest in the MAV board. Only 5 of the 12 regions were uncontested as follows:

Rural South Central: Rod Fyffe (Bendigo)
Metropolitan Southern: Geoff Lake (Monash)
Metropolitan South East: Coral Ross (Boroondara)
Rural South West: Ruth Gstrein (Corangamite)
Rural South Central: David Clark (Pyrenees)

And here are the candidates in the 7 contested regions:

Metropolitan East: Geoff Gough (Manningham), Andrew Munroe (Whitehorse), Tony Dib (Maroondah), Peter Lockwood (Knox)
Interface: Mary Lalios (Whittlesea), Helen Coleman (Nillumbik)
Rural Gippsland: Kimberley Brown (Bass Coast), Jane Rowe (East Gippsland), Dale Hariman (Latrobe)
Rural North West: Reid Mather (Buloke), Gary Norton (Swan Hill)
Metropolitan West: John Sipek (Moonee Valley), Angela Altair (Hobsons Bay)
Metropolitan Central: Gaetano Greco (Darebin), Jackie Fristacky (Yarra)
Rural North East: Peter Joyce (Towong), Debra Swan (Strathbogie)

Further discussions

As this email hopefully demonstrates, I will be a President who emails regularly and updates delegates on developments at MAV.

I would also be delighted to visit delegates across Victoria over the coming three weeks.

Indeed, if elected, I undertake to visit the operations of all 79 councils before 2015. I love nothing more than observing councils in action and over the past 3 years have voluntarily watched meetings at the likes of Kingston, Boroondara, Whittlesea, Yarra, Darebin, Moreland, Port Phillip, Whitehorse, Nillumbik, Banyule and Hume. This list will be closer to 40 by the end of 2013.

If you'd like to discuss any issue related to the MAV, please feel free to reply to this email or call.

And good luck to all candidates, including Bill and Andrew in the Presidential contest.

Best wishes,
Cr Stephen Mayne
MAV delegate
City of Melbourne