Dear MAV delegates, ALGA directors, councilors and officers (more than 3000 people from local government in total),
momentum is shifting on the constitutional recognition argument
and it looks increasingly like a sharply different Municipal Association of Victoria board
will be returned when the current Presidential and full board election concludes on Monday, March 1.
The incumbent MAV President, Bill McArthur, along with MAV's two other ALGA board
representatives, will be attending the two day ALGA meeting in Canberra later this week when ALGA's referendum position will be finalised. Timing is extremely tight as Federal Cabinet is expected to announce its final decision on whether to proceed later in March.
It is possible that all three of Victoria's ALGA directors, currently in caretaker mode, will be defeated in the current MAV board elections. Please take this into account during your deliberations inside the ALGA board room.
Bill McArthur mentioned at last night's MAV Presidential candidates forum in Benalla that ALGA is seeking to establish a $10 million commitment for the referendum campaign and that Victoria's share would be $3.2 million.
Please be aware that if I'm elected President of the MAV on a platform of re-invigorating the push for a referendum on September 14, there will be very strong political momentum coming out of Victoria.
The MAV has been dragging the chain on the campaign funding question and we currently have nothing more than a plan to pursue voluntary contributions from MAV members.
If elected MAV President and as chair of City of Melbourne's Finance Committee, I am confident that my council colleagues would commit to a substantial 6 figure contribution to the campaign out of our circa $550 million in consolidated revenues in 2013-14. It should not be a problem raising the necessary campaign funds and resources exclusively from the larger metropolitan and regional councils which have formally endorsed constitutional recognition.
Victoria has the financially strongest local government sector in Australia. If we can absorb a $450 million cash hit on unfunded superannuation, then we can easily handle a $3.2 million spend on the constitutional recognition campaign. I heard loud and clear in Benalla last night from Towong delegate Peter Joyce that small rural councils don't need any more imposts on their budgets. Towong is Victoria's smallest council in terms of revenue and population, only raising about $5 million in rates from an overall budget of $15 million (see 2012-13 budget
). This constitutional recognition campaign should not cost battling councils like Towong a cent.
It largely comes down to the Victorian players
Victoria's position is absolutely pivotal if we are to seize the day and make history by securing constitutional recognition for local government on September 14.
The Prime Minister who made the commitment when forming her minority government and the Local Government Minister, Simon Crean, both represent Victorian seats. Indeed, current MAV director and former ALGA chairman Geoff Lake aspires to succeed Simon Crean in the Federal seat of Hotham when he retires from Federal Parliament.
Seeing as Geoff was the ALGA President when our sector nationally embraced the push for constitutional recognition at this 3 days summit
in December 2008, I remain puzzled why his ALP dominated Monash council has voted to give President Bill McArthur an historic 6 year term as MAV President when he is a known skeptic on the constitutional recognition question. It is ALP policy to support constitutional recognition and I am running as an independent explicitly on that platform.
It it not too late for Monash to adopt a different position during urgent business at next Tuesday's council meeting
, as can other councils across Victoria which are now realising that the swing is on and there is real momentum behind the idea of making this high-profile contested MAV board election a political catalyst for kick-starting the faltering constitutional recognition campaign.
A fair hearing for all candidates
As all of you know when it comes to voting on planning matters, we are strongly advised not to make up our minds until after hearing all of the submissions and debate in open council.
Unfortunately, this has not been the case in this MAV election, as a number of delegates have voted before hearing what happened during 4 hours of debate at the Presidential forums held over the past 3 nights in Stawell, Melbourne and Benalla respectively.
The MAV will be making the webcast of the 80 minute Melbourne debate on Tuesday night available for voting members and I strongly urge delegates to listen and then conduct further consultations with colleagues.
A number of councilors are reporting that their MAV delegates have voted without fully discussing the issues with council colleagues.
Good governance and common courtesy would suggest that delegates should take comprehensive soundings from their popularly elected colleagues. If they have prematurely voted contrary to what the majority position of the council would be AFTER the full debate has been conducted, then surely there is some question over that person's ongoing suitability to be the MAV delegate. The incumbent President may have some long-standing relationships with certain older male delegates in non-metropolitan areas, but as a sector we also need to look to the future and determine our leadership based on merit and issues, not criteria such as where someone lives.
Striking a balance between city and country
On this "regional versus metro" question, it is worth remembering that I served and still live in Manningham
, a council which describes itself as "Balance of city and country". Check it out here.
We have farms, orchards, wineries, dirt roads and vast tracts of land classified as "rural conservation zone" in Manningham. There is no curb and channel or footpaths in my street and we wrestle with polluted waterways from our 5500 septic systems. And if you want to talk about infrastructure deficits, Manningham has the highest level of car ownership of any council in Australia because we are the only "metro" council without any rail or tram service.
This election provides a clear choice for councilors. It's Time for change.
Do we want Cr Bill McArthur to become the 5th longest serving President in the 100-plus year history of the MAV when he is already approaching retirement age? Think about that for a moment. Would any of you bequeath the role of mayor on a veteran colleague for 6 successive years? Cr McArthur also has his general store and bottle shop business to run, not to mention his duties as a councilor at Golden Plains, which is a 90 minute drive from the 50 staff at MAV head office.
If elected, I will clear the decks of all other commitments outside of Melbourne City Council and the MAV and undertake not to contest any other elections over the next two years.
Lots of insights during 4 hours of campaign debates
If only our Federal politicians would get behind the proposed US-style independent debates commission which would lock in 3 televised leaders debate at each election.
I've learnt a lot about the MAV by listening closely to all the contributions from President McArthur, various delegates and veteran MAV CEO Rob Spence over the past 3 nights.
For instance, the President declared last night in Benalla that the Victorian Coalition government is "in terrible trouble on the Fire Services Levy".
Frankly, I think it is the 79 Victorian councils which will be in terrible trouble because this unprecedented $800 million slug will appear on our rate notices after July 1.
There aren't too many fires in the City of Melbourne, yet our ratepayers will be slugged about $50 million in Fire Services Levies on top of a projected 2012-13 rate target of $204 million. Who negotiated that?
Replicate those sorts of percentages in revenue collection by councils across the state and we have a political firestorm ahead of us, yet the MAV has been lured inside the Government tent and is an active participant in a working party which has so far produced not much in the way of concessions.
Managing the government relationship
Former MAV President Geoff Lake was the only voting delegate who physically attended the Melbourne Presidential forum on Tuesday night. The three candidates allowed him to conduct a 30 minute Q&A session and he did it well, belying the fact that he had prematurely already voted for the incumbent, a decision which was made before even seeing who had nominated.
One of Geoff's pertinent questions to Bill McArthur was along the lines that the MAV used to be criticised for being too close to the government (ie when we had overtly Labor Presidents like Cr Lake and Dick Gross during the Bracks-Brumby years) but now the suggestion was that we weren't close enough.
That's certainly the conclusion I drew when the Baillieu Cabinet completely ignored MAV's advocacy and declared they were opposed to constitutional recognition. Only the conservative government in WA has adopted such a negative stance.
Cr McArthur claimed at a couple of the forums that the Government has shut the door on negotiation with the MAV ever since that Cabinet decision was announced. He also declared last night that "we don't trumpet our success near enough".
Too right we don't. Councilors and delegates, let's reclaim our voice. Let's be loud and proud as a sector. Let's stop being walked over like a door mat.
Constitutional recognition is in the balance and we have a unique opportunity to move in a different direction.
At the very least, talk these issues over with your colleagues. If any of you would like to meet or discuss the alternative candidates and their respective platforms, just reply to this email or call on 0412 106 241.
Postal voting closes in 11 days so there is still plenty of time to think, prod, debate and even, heaven forbid, change your allegiance to the genuinely independent candidate promoting generational change and rejuvenation at the MAV.
Cr Stephen Mayne
Melbourne City Councillor
Candidate for MAV President
PS. If you missed our earlier missives on the MAV campaign, here are the relevant links:
February 7 email to 72 MAV delegates
February 19 email to 16,500 people