Everything you need to know about council elections in Victoria

September 24, 2016

Dear Candidates for the 2016 Victorian council elections (plus some others interested in politics and local government),

It's Stephen Mayne here, a City of Melbourne councillor who is recontesting as an independent over the coming month.

The purpose of this email is to open a dialogue with all candidates who have disclosed email addresses through the VEC website about local government in Victoria and the need to get the best people possible elected to council.

A lot of community members have little idea about their council candidates and media coverage is often threadbare, particularly when you have 78 elections conducted simultaneously. Given that only the Greens and to a very limited degree Labor preselect candidates, Victorian council elections are often hard to read with the major parties pretty much all absent from the field.

Therefore, www.maynereport.com is going to cover the elections with a view to informing the community, promoting best practice governance and transparency, assisting with identification of good and bad candidates and also having a bit of fun along the way.

The former councillors attempting a comeback

We'll be generating a few lists as part of this project and would love your assistance. For instance, let's collectively identify all of the former councillors who are attempting a return.

We're now up to almost 50 - check out the full list here.

MAV crunches some interesting numbers

The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) put out an interesting press release on Wednesday after nominations had closed which included quite a few insightful statistics, such as the following:

# Total candidate numbers vying for 637 vacancies have risen 6.5% to a record 2135, meaning the success rate will be 29.83%.

# Female candidate numbers have crept up from 33% to 34% (724 of 2135 ) and of the 35% of current councillors who are female, 78% are recontesting.

# 139 councillors are retiring (including 15 current mayors) reflecting an attrition rate of 21.8%. 465 incumbents are recontesting.

# Two of the 78 elections won't take place because Mansfield and Towong shires had the same number of candidates as there is vacancies.

# There is clearly lots of anger in growth areas as the two councils with the highest number of candidates were Wyndham and Casey with 95 and 84 respectively.

# There were 38 unopposed vacancies across 19 municipalities (six per cent of total vacancies), mainly in single member wards and rural areas. This means there are only 59 councils where all wards are being contested. 34 of these unopposed vacancies were filled by incumbents who are obviously doing a good job. This includes the seven mayors who were returned uncontested in Boroondara, Campaspe, Corangamite, Loddon, Mansfield, Murrindindi and Towong.

# Early voting has already started at the 6 councils still putting up with lower participation rates from attendance voting: Banyule, Greater Dandenong, Knox, Moreland, Port Phillip and Yarra. Why do they do it? A month of early voting started on Wednesday so they will be demanding plenty of their volunteers.

We can say what the MAV can't

The MAV is obviously limited in its ability to make any assessment of the quality of candidates or the politics at play, so that's a gap we will try to fill over the coming month. For instance, should Julian Fidge be returned to Wangaratta after those earlier issues? Is it time for Maria Sampey to retire from Dandenong? Has Dick Gross got something new and different to offer Port Phillip from last time?

We have started putting together a master list for every council election in Victoria and would like to add some commentary on the state of play at each council - including what will and and should happen.

Therefore, if you are an informed player, it would be great if you could send through an email in the following format assessing what is happening at your council.

Melbourne: all 11 are contesting but at least 3 defeats are assured because Robert Doyle and Ken Ong are both running for Lord Mayor and Team Doyle has elevated two new councillors (Nicholas Reece and Tessa Sullivan) to 2nd and 3rd on the ticket, meaning two incumbents will get squeezed.

Manningham: Started with 9 until Jennifer Yang retired to run in the Senate and the remaining 8 Councillors are all recontesting their existing wards. Paula Piccinini looks a good chance in Heide, her husband's old ward.

How many other councils have all the incumbents recontesting? Again, please email stephen@maynereport.com.

Will your council follow the City of Melbourne transparency lead?

Earlier this month, City of Melbourne councillors unanimously supported this report documenting many of the transparency reforms at Town Hall since 2012. Have a look at them and ask yourself if your council should be doing some of these things?

The prime vehicle for these changes has been putting up councillor motions - see all 55 of them here - which make a direct decision without requiring an officer report. Have a think about putting up some similar motions if you get elected or re-elected next month.

Just how much of a family affair is council?

My better half, Paula Piccinini, is running in Manningham so we will be a two council household if we both get lucky with voters over the next month. Historically, Paula is more successful in contested elections than me.

There are several other examples of families with multiple members participating in these elections. Robert Doyle's new deputy lord mayoral candidate Arron Wood is a Mildura boy and his brother Liam is running in Mildura.

Jon Faine revealed the 4 members of the Klein family running in Nillumbik and Monash Liberal Theo Zographos has his wife running, according to one Tweeter.

Up in Southern Grampians Shire, there must be a fair chance that Yvonne Calvano is related to incumbent councillor Albert Calvano. There are no wards so these family members are competing for votes and with preference cards no longer being printed, it is hard to understand why this is happening.

After a four year absence and almost 15 years of service at Sandringham and Bayside (including mayor of both), Simon Russell is attempting a return at Bayside, running alongside his daughter Olivia Russell in the same ward.

Who have we missed - just reply to this email for a no fingerprints update to the public record.

How is your council handling caretaker?

The Local Government Act is very prescriptive in creating a level playing field in council elections and insisting that no council resources are used for political advantage during the election campaign.

For instance, City of Melbourne officers have removed councillor bios from our website but the pictures remains. The officers also decided not to publish the audio alongside the minutes from Tuesday night's 3 hour committee meeting which finished more than 3 hours before caretaker started. I contested that call but was rebuffed.

However, our officers are continuing to send incumbent councillors the daily Isentia media report which gives us a leg up on challenging candidates who don't see the professionally packaged and presented account of all media coverage about City of Melbourne, something which is paid for by ratepayers.

I've suggested our media department stop sending it in the interests of having a level playing field.

I'm hearing stories that some councils are demanding phones be handed back, but other slackers are even letting councillors use their council email address as the contact point on the VEC website. See the example of Bob Henderson at Central Goldfields Shire.

What has your experience been with caretaker? Are staff refusing to talk to you? Give us a call on 0412 106 241 or shoot through an email. We'll be providing lots of updates on twitter @maynereport, plus at least three more email updates like this one.

The 14 most interesting council elections to watch

Here are 14 councils that we'll be keeping an eye on over the course of the campaign but no doubt you'll let us know about plenty of other interesting contests:

Bass Coast: Phillip Island is a big issue with a chaotic secessionist movement up and running, backed by a biased local paper. Five of the 9 candidates on the new 3 member Island ward want separation from Bass Coast, under the guise of the Phillip Island Progress Association. Even if elected, what then given both sides of State politics don't support it.

Brimbank: sacked in 2009, they have one of the largest fields with more than 60 nominations. Pent up demand, it seems. Who will be the first mayor?

Darebin: big fields and there is talk that Federal MP David Feeney may get involved (printing allowance?) after receiving some key support from councillors during his battle to fend off the Greens in Batman. Susan Rennie has done a power of good work taking on the pokies and would be an excellent new councillor if supported in Rucker ward. Greens almost certain to lift their numbers from 1 to 3 or 4. Big issue around the Labor-backed CEO and on-going controversies about campaign funding, including the involvement of Feeney and his office. Sole Liberal Oliver Walsh and current ALP mayor Vince Fontana both departed. Labor is running a candidate who manages a pokies venue in Darebin.

Golden Plains: it seems that 8 years as MAV President is not enough for Bill McArthur who has nominated again and plans to try and notch up 10 years in the peak job, backed by the rural gerrymander which doesn't seem to mind that the Victorian Auditor General released a scathing assessment of MAV governance and practices two years ago. Almost certain to be returned at Golden Plains which has no wards and 12 candidates chasing the 7 vacancies. Came 4th on the primaries in 2012 but was within 1% of the most popular candidate. But will the new Golden Plains council select Cr McArthur as their MAV delegate - the only prerequisite for running for President. Many would suggest not, but don't hold your breath.

Hobsons Bay: went from dysfunction and conflict in the previous term to a model council for the past 4 years, so not sure the return of Tony Briffawould be a good move. Resigned mid-way through this term, automatically terminating a code of conduct panel which was on foot at the time. Does that get re-heated on a return to council?

Maribyrnong: long a Labor council until Liberal-leaning independents won a majority in 2012, but then had major paid parking controversy. Labor has formally endorsed 7 candidates this time, the most of any council in Victoria. Can they win back control? Perhaps time for Catherine Cumming to exit and Greens running strongly.

Maroondah: the former Federal member for Deakin, ETU man Mike Symon, has popped up as candidate. There aren't too many former Federal MPs who try their hand at local government afterwards. Can you think of any others?

Melbourne: after 8 years of ruling without a majority, as The AFR noted earlier in the week, Robert Doyle is shooting for a majority in his own right this time, which certainly wouldn't be ideal. If you love super salesman Doyle, as many voters do, you still don't have to vote for his team in the separate council election. Our pitch, of course, is vote for the bloke with the longest possible six word Group Name: "Stephen Mayne: Transparency, Independence, Accountability, Experience". See how it looks here.

Monash: can Geoff Lake retain his vice-like control of the numbers for Labor as he has done for the past 13 years? Big fields suggest it may be under threat this time. Former Team Doyle councillor Carl Jetter is also having a run in Monash and is said to be keen to help topple the entrenched Lake regime.

Nillumbik: it's on again between the land owner and conservation forces. Liberal Party power broker and property veteran Peter Clarke has nominated against Labor mayor Helen Coleman in her single member ward of Wingrove. This means he isn't running again for Melbourne where he previously served as chair of the planning committee. Four members of the one family are running, something Jon Faine picked up on ABC radio last week.

Port Phillip:
a big push from the Greens with some of the candidates having run for the Greens before. Amanda Stevens is a big loss after just one term where she served as mayor for 3 years. Former MAV President Dick Gross is also attempting to make a comeback.

South Gippsland Shire: 32 candidates for 9 vacancies, when only 13 stood last time, an indication of how fractious this council term has been. 8 of the 9 incumbents are restanding, with the single exit of a long termer viewed as good for the council. There have been numerous Code of conduct hearings and complaints, two first time councillors crying ‘voting bloc' every time their views were not supported, one of which is a former staffer, dismissed by the current CEO. There is a lot of talk of stooges standing to skew the result.

Wangaratta: sacked a couple of years back and now Sophie Mirabella's husband is running, along with Julian Fidge, who was a player in some of the controversies. Will he get back and are we going to see the Mirabella name back in politics?

Wyndham: The Sunday Age did a big piece on September 18 on wealthy entrepreneur and local councillor Intaj Kahn which will generate extra attention on that council during these elections. He's clearly a polarising figure or someone running multiple support candidates as his ward of Harrison is the most heavily contested in Victorian history with 41 of the record 95 candidates running in Wyndham.

Be thankful you are not contesting a corporate election

It is not easy winning a contested council election but consider yourself lucky not to be taking on a public company. Australian law allows the directors to run their own elections and these are the 20 most biased ballot papers that have been produced when someone challenged them. Thank goodness for the VEC and state law which produces entirely neutral ballot papers, except for the lucky person who scores the donkey vote at the top of the ticket.

Will any of you candidates finish up in Parliament?

We love a good list at The Mayne Report and this is a particular favourite:
140 local govt councillors who made it into Parliament

No doubt some of the first time councillors elected next month will make that list one day. Watch out for incoming Team Doyle member and Labor journeyman Nicholas Reece at City of Melbourne but are there any other tips on that score?

How are you using your 200 words to best effect?

The 6 councils running attendance elections on October 22 don't get their candidates to prepare a 200 word statement which is distributed with the postal ballot packs but more than 2000 other candidates have already done it before the noon deadline on Wednesday.

City of Melbourne is different as we have until noon on Monday to submit our 200 word statement.

We'll give some awards for the best and worst statements and this is what we're looking at going with to the 133,000 City of Melbourne voters, although feel free to suggest any improvements:

Candidates: Stephen Mayne and Johanna Maxwell

Group Name: "Stephen Mayne: Transparency, Independence, Accountability, Experience".

Whoever you select to run our wonderful city – we will independently hold them to account from the sensible centre.

That's exactly what has happened these past 4 years where Cr Stephen Mayne has chaired the Finance and Governance committee and leveraged the balance of power to transform City of Melbourne into Australia's most open and transparent council.

By all means support the Lord Mayor, as Cr Mayne often does. He does a great job. But too much power is unhealthy! Take out some insurance by voting for Stephen in the separate council election.

Stephen spent 27 years through journalism, publishing (Crikey.com), shareholder activism, government roles and ABC broadcasting talking truth to power and independently promoting good governance.

He watches your dollars like a hawk, has taken no overseas junkets, costs ratepayers less than all other councillors, is running a donation-free campaign and can spot a rort a mile off. He's looking after your interests.

Johanna Maxwell and her husband are small business owners and have lived and worked in Docklands for almost 10 years. Johanna is President of the Docklands Chamber of Commerce. Together we support single governance of the waterways, activation of Victoria Harbour waterways, retention of water-based fireworks and redevelopment of Harbour Esplanade.

From the member edition archive

If you're a relatively new Mayne Report reader, here are links to some of the more interesting email editions sent out over the past nine years.

2016 - 13 editions so far

Running in Melbourne, council elections, Eddie McGuire, JB Hi Fi, NAB political donations, Jeff Kennett and plenty more
Sunday, September 18, 2016

Melbourne transparency reforms, council elections, pokies, capital raisings, long serving directors and MenziesSunday, September 4, 2016

Go Malcolm, denting Kevin, AEC goes nuclear and plenty more
Thursday, July 7

Final Menzies email blast
Friday, July 1

Campaign update, more pokies donations, Menzies ignored, ASA leave and council governance reform
Monday, June 27

Kevin's getting worried, campaign update, pokies, News Corp dispute, City of Melbourne and family news
Friday, June 17

Kevin locked in, so Make Menzies Matters campaign hits top gear
Friday, June 10

Menzies update, "Fake Liberal" corflutes, AFL pokies push, gift register and much more
Saturday, June 4, 2016

Menzies update, Westfield rate dodging, The Australian's gossips and candidate betting
Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Menzies update, ASA board, pokies and Four Corners
Monday, May 23, 2016

Mayne announces Menzies tilt as Kevin Andrews embroiled in stacking scandal
Saturday, May 7, 2016

Turnbull, Warburton, pokies, AICD, IOOF, Quills, internal audit and much more
Monday, March 22, 2016

Bank royal commission, ASA tilt, Copyright, Piccinini, pokies, Kevin Andrews and Cabcharge
Monday, April 11, 2016

2015 - 8 editions

AGM season, PAITREOs, pokies, MAV, Copyright, Piccinini sisters, ANZ carbon and transcripts
November 5, 2015

Global Integrity Summit, Macquarie, pokies, council update, AGM season and family news
October 12, 2015

Battling Slaters, a Stokes shocker, council, CBA litigation, ASA conference and RACV reforms
April 30, 2015

Tenth anniversary of Crikey sale, Aristocrat AGM, council transparency and then some
March 9, 2015

Why Ministers should support the Liberal leadership spill
Monday, February 9, 2015

2014 - 8 editions focused on back half of the year post ASA gig

Special edition on the Victorian election result
Sunday, November 30, 2014

Vic election, Herald Sun, Rupert votes, Tex, Xenophon and much morey
Sunday, November 23, 2014

Rupert AGMs, Cabcharge, Costello, Bolt, Ten and Victorian election
Sunday, November 16, 2014

CBA tilt, LA visit, Rupert AGMs, Cabcharge and state election
Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cabcharge, donations for Rupert visit and governance reforms at City of Melbourne
Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Tilts, Fairfax, CBA, Brickworks, Albert Park, ASX, Woolies, pokies and Crown
Friday, September 20, 2014

We're back: inside a post-ASA election season blitz
Monday, September 15, 2014

2013 - 10 editions with 5 favourites below

Capital raisings, Ansell, IAG, Packer, pokies, Rich List, City of Melbourne and ASA update
Monday, December 23, 2013

Franking robbery, East West trust breach, BHP bonuses, John Gay and plenty more
Sunday, August 25, 2013

ASA policy paper, Kevin Andrews on the pokies, Senate preferences and much more
August 19, 2013

ASA, Billabong, Westfield, Newcrest, Shorten, Turnbull, pokies and then some
Monday, July 22, 2013

Rudd v Gillard, referendum, Labor sleaze, Clive Palmer, ASA, City of Melbourne and plenty more
Monday, June 24, 2013

2012 - only 9 editions given council and ASA commitments

Backing Rudd, Lachlan, Bob Brown media debate, Manningham governance, Gunns and St Kilda AGM
Monday, February 20, 2012

The OZ goes mad, Murdoch piracy, AFR, pokies double rate, Gina, council super, BoQ rip-off and power speech
Wednesday, April 4, 2012

2011 - 21 editions but slowed down after elected to ASA board in May

Murdoch special, media inquiry, pokies, Manningham, Zara, secretive Shortenite crs and Vodafone take-down
Thursday, September 15, 2011

Elected to ASA board, pokies, Rio, Santos, RHG, Hartigan, Manningham, capital raisings and Rich List
Thursday, May 19, 2011

2010 - 39 editions and last year with paid staff

Paperlinx, Packer, Murdoch, Manningham, pokies, Rich ex wives, foreign takeovers and much more
Saturday, October 23, 2010

DJs, women on boards, ex Lib goes no pokies, preferences, Pratt-Shorten, Labor's debt and Manningham council audio
August 3, 2010

Director rankings, Rio, Westfield, MAP, Manningham, Paatsch, state election, rich list, pokies and much more
June 9, 2010

Political donations, Stokes, Westfield tower, Richard Colless, Manningham nursing home, state debt, Rich List and Grand Prix
February 23, 2010

2009 - 40 editions but was slowed down by Manningham council

Seven AGM, crazy Perth visit, Fairfax, Telstra, Transfield, capital raisings and much more
November 9, 2009

News Corp AGM, Packer, Fairfax, James Strong, Woolies, Eastern Golf, Kohler-Gatto and much more
October 20, 2009

Bad Bendigo, Mark Day, Manningham, pokies, NAB, Asciano, Rich List, Paladin and hostile EGMs
September 15, 2009

Macquarie AGM, Melbourne's decline, Asciano EGM, capital raisings, Goyder's pokies and AGM diary
July 28, 2009

2008 - 172 editions in our first and best full year of operation as the GFC hit and before we got overloaded at Manningham

71% backing at Centro, $11bn backing at BHP and huge Qantas protest
November 28, 2008

Combank's $700m ABC Learning debacle
November 13, 2008

Toll board skewered over $55m executive rort
October 30, 2008

Rupert's accountability dodge, Macquarie's Italian hit, Babcock funds revamp, pokieact.org and rich lists.
October 20, 2008

BHP and Woolies tilts, AFIC push on Stan Wallis, ASX-Kohler yarn and new Rich Listers
September 26, 2008

Macquarie videos, Stokes raid, new board tilt, Oz Minerals, share trading and much more
July 25, 2008

Owen Hegarty payout rolled, history is made
July 18, 2008

Great debate at the Babcock AGM
May 30, 2008

Our liveliest edition yet
Thursday, May 8, 2008

Burrows quits Fairfax, Rupert, donations, long-serving directors and much more
January 31, 2008

Markets tumble, Rupert book deal, Centro, Rich List, Xenophon, AFR tips and our buying spree
January 17, 2008

2007 - 15 editions as we launched shortly before running in Federal election

Fortescue Metals AGM: time for Twiggy and FMG to grow up
Sunday, November 8, 2007, 10.30pm

How $5bn worth of votes backed us against Rupert's dodgy gerrymander
Saturday, 20 October, 2007, 7.20am

That's all for now.

Do ya best, Cr Stephen Mayne (0412 106 241)

* The Mayne Report is an email newsletter and website which promotes transparency and good governance in the corporate, political and media worlds. It is published by Stephen Mayne, the founder of Crikey.com, shareholder advocate, ASA director and City of Melbourne councillor. To unsubscribe from this email list, click here. Authorised by Stephen Mayne, 90 Swanston St, Melbourne 3000.