A citizen’s jury report was tabled in Parliament this week with recommendations about the future council model for the City of Greater Geelong. The government will respond early in 2017, but the Minister for Local Government Natalie Hutchins has indicated she will adopt the citizen’s jury’s recommendation that a council-elected mayor would serve the Greater Geelong community better than the current direct-election model. This conclusion was made through an underwhelming approval rating difference of just five per cent, which I think is a sham of a process on which to decide Geelong’s future.
There is little doubt that the Melbourne model is the preference of the Geelong community. The citizen’s jury initially voted 57 to 43 in favour of keeping the public mayoral vote, which reflected an online survey of 956 residents run in conjunction with the process, finding that 59 per cent wanted to keep the mayoral vote unchanged. However, the jury required an 80 per cent ‘super majority’ to produce a verdict, and the end result flipped around.
The minister says this online survey of 900-plus responses is not indicative of the community, but I think the same could be said of her jury of just 100 people picked by state government consultants with an agenda for a council-elected mayor.
City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, the Committee for Geelong, former Premier Denis Napthine and former mayors Darryn Lyons and Keith Fagg have all indicated Geelong would be better off under the Melbourne model.
My personal view is that a democratic process of choosing a community-elected mayor would better serve the needs of Greater Geelong, and this view is widely held by the ratepayers of Geelong. My hope is that the State Government will give due consideration to other comments and views from people outside its hand-picked citizen’s jury.