History made in MAV election as Matthew Guy unloads

April 20, 2013

Dear MAV delegates, councilors and female directors across Australia,

the votes have been counted in the board elections for the Municipal Association of Victoria and history has been made with a majority of female directors emerging for the first time.

Without City of Melbourne's casting vote in its region and direct lobbying of the 25 female delegates to contest, the next two years would have seen the MAV board run by 8 blokes and 5 women.

Instead, with direct intervention we have a historic female majority with 7 successful candidates and the 6 blokes in the minority. Stand by for much-needed progressive cultural change at the MAV.

In every female vs male contest, the bloke got beaten, including, most dramatically, Jane Rowe's out of the hat triumph in the Rural Gippsland region.

Strathbogie's impressive mayor Deb Swan had to be persuaded to run, but she prevailed 7-5 over the equally impressive Peter Joyce from Towong in the Rural North East region.

President Bill back for another term

The three horse all blokes Presidential contest saw incumbent Bill McArthur comfortably returned with 44 primary votes ahead of Whitehorse's Liberal mayor Andrew Munroe on 16 and the loud, disruptive change agent third on 14.

Coming third was disappointing although this was never about winning, but rather rattling the MAV cage and shaking up a sleepy board whilst injecting some important issues into the public debate.

Cr McArthur's win was always widely expected although it is the first time in many years that the non-metropolitan gerrymander (51 out of 79 votes with 20% of the population) has delivered a decisive victory over competing candidates from larger metro councils.

That said, Bill is a salt of the earth proprietor of a general store and bottle shop in a country town who works very hard for the MAV and does indeed lead a united membership with the support of key Labor metro figure Geoff Lake and long-serving CEO Rob Spence.

However, Bill's other big supporter on the board, Manningham Liberal Geoff Gough, has been dumped after several years of inaction representing Eastern Metropolitan in favour of former state Labor MP, Peter Lockwood, the delegate from Knox.

Combine that with the other results and it is clear the cosy boys club at the MAV is over, along with much of the entitlements culture that went with it.

Two good candidates for Melbourne to choose from

Darebin's Gaetano Greco, from Labor's Socialist Left faction, was one of the best MAV directors but he was rolled 3-2 by independent Yarra mayor Jackie Fristacky.

Both were strong candidates, but as a long-time supporter of gender equality, I was more than happy to deliver Melbourne's swing vote to a fellow independent like Cr Fristacky.

Independent Hobsons Bay mayor (and journalist) Angela Altair also signaled a further shift towards independents inside the MAV board room when she comfortable defeated Labor's John Sipek 5-1 in the Metropolitan West region.

Cr Sipek put plenty into his 4 year term but suffered from the "It's Time" factor against a quality candidate.

It is quite symbolic that Labor has lost the MAV board seat in its western suburbs heartland which is represented by people like Bill Shorten, Nicola Roxon and Julia Gillard in Canberra.

Indeed, the City of Maribyrnong, which takes in much of Shorten's Federal seat of Maribyrnong, now sees Labor in a 4-3 minority position to independents for the first time.

The independents also have a clear majority at Hobsons Bay and the City of Wyndham, which takes in much of the PM's seat of Lalor, has seen Labor drop to just 2 councilors.

Many stalwarts never imagined the day would come when a Labor candidate would get vanquished 5-1 in an MAV board election by an independent in the party's western Melbourne heartland. This is quite an omen for September 14.

That said, Labor will still have 5 out of 13 seats on the MAV board through Geoff Lake, Mary Lalios, Jane Rowe, Peter Lockwood and Rod Fyffe (if you count his wife's ALP membership as tagging him). So the real power shift is actually away from conservative men in the regions.

Liberal fighting lets Labor through in Eastern suburbs

The most politicised region was my old stomping ground of Eastern Metropolitan where all 5 delegates were big party members.

However, the 3 Liberals (Andrew Munroe in Whitehorse, Geoff Gough in Manningham and Jenny Mulholland in Banyule), couldn't work out their differences so the Labor grouping (Tony Dib in Maroondah and Peter Lockwood in Knox) ended up prevailing.

After many years on the board, Geoff Gough tried to hang on for way too long. He should have voluntarily passed the baton to his friend Jenny Mulholland but selfishly didn't even suggest it to her before nominating.

Jenny had been Banyule's delegate for more than a decade and I tried to talk her into running but she was too deferential to Cr Gough and presumably was a bit scarred by the solitary vote she got (it's clearly not easy challenging from outside the tent!) when running for MAV President in 2004. Back then she preferenced Labor's Lisa Mahood and this time she has effectively delivered the key board seat to Labor by failing to support Andrew Munroe, who was so frustrated by Cr Gough's self-serving obstinance that he went off and played "out of the hat" roulette with Labor and lost. Cr Munroe ran a good positive Presidential campaign and did well to finish second.

The only "out of the hat" final result came in Rural Gippsland where Labor's Jane Rowe prevailed over Latrobe's Dale Hariman after they tied 3-3. Cr Hariman would have prevailed under the old first past the post voting system because Bass Coast's Kimberley Brown voted for herself and then preferenced Jane Rowe in the distribution. However, the Local Government Minister belatedly signed off on MAV's request to move to a preferential voting system in the regions and this worked in favour of Labor's Jane Rowe, who ran for President in 2011 when she was also voted off the board as regional delegate.

Thank goodness this female Minister made the change which helped deliver the first ever female majority at the MAV.

Anyway, that's enough of the detail, here are the final results:

Presidential contest
44. Bill McArthur (Golden Plains, independent)
16. Andrew Munroe (Whitehorse, Liberal)
14. Stephen Mayne (Melbourne, independent)

Full Distribution
51. Bill McArthur
23. Andrew Munroe
5 informal or not returned votes from delegates

Regional board members re-elected uncontested

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

Results in the 7 contested regions:

Metropolitan East
3. Peter Lockwood (Knox, received preferences from Tony Dib and Andrew Munroe)
2. Geoff Gough (Manningham)

3. Mary Lalios (Whittlesea, Labor)
1. Helen Coleman (Nillumbik)
2 votes not returned

Rural Gippsland
3. Jane Rowe (East Gippsland, received Bass Coast preference)
3. Dale Hariman (Latrobe)

Rural North West
5. Gary Norton (Swan Hill)
3. Reid Mather (Buloke, National)

Metropolitan West
5. Angela Altair (Hobsons Bay)
1. John Sipek (Moonee Valley, Labor),

Metropolitan Central
3. Jackie Fristacky (Yarra)
2. Gaetano Greco (Darebin, Labor)

Rural North East
7. Debra Swan (Strathbogie)
5. Peter Joyce (Towong)

Blown up by Planning Minister Matthew Guy

Liberals speak of Matthew Guy as a future Premier but if his belligerent performance on Jon Faine's program yesterday is any guide, he's a man with a short fuse who is suffering from the sort of hubris that comes with excessive power.

The Planning Minister looks like he's poised to approve the biggest building in the Southern Hemisphere at Southbank, as the Herald Sun reported on Thursday morning.

After a request from Faine's program and because I was already headed to the ABC to record an interview for this 7.30 story about the Murdoch family's takeover of Network Ten, I agreed to pop into the bearded one's studio for a chat about how the Minister has been exercising his enormous discretionary power under Victorian law.

What I said was 100% factually correct, yet the Minister came on and blatantly defamed me as if I was some clueless half wit who deliberately spreads lies.

774 ABC Melbourne have this afternoon packaged up my original interview, along with the Minister's response.

Have a listen here.

Here's hoping the young and ambitious Minister comes to his senses and offers an appropriate apology, whilst learning the lesson about managing his temperament when debating important planning matters with his fellow elected officials.

And whilst this Minister is clearly honest and highly capable, he should consider this point which goes to the heart of what I'm saying: what would happen if Eddie Obeid or Ian McDonald ever became Victoria's Planning Minister? They'd have a field day.

A succession of Victorian Planning Ministers have had way too much power with not nearly enough transparency around their decision making and far too much fully delegated discretion. And Minister Guy is on a roll like no-one before which looks like culminating in approval for the biggest building in the Southern Hemisphere without even referring it to Cabinet.

Whilst City of Melbourne councilors have resolved that we'll never meet with a developer without an officer present, no such protocol exists in the Minister's office.

Nonda Katsalidis and his fellow Australia 108 director Benni Aroni, the team who delivered the Eureka Tower, are coming in to brief councilors and officers on Monday morning and our officer report is available here. We'll consider all arguments before we gather to debate and vote in public at this Future Melbourne Committee meeting on Tuesday night. Book your tickets folks. Maybe Matthew Guy should come along and watch our transparent decision-making process which relies on public advice from professional planners.

That's all for now.

Congratulation to all the elected and re-elected MAV directors and have a good weekend.

Do ya best, Stephen Mayne