“SHE’S GOT HER EYES ON YOU” was the screaming headline on the front page of the Geelong Advertiser yesterday (Wednesday).
“She” was the Minister for Local Government, Natalie Hutchins.
“You” were the dozen-odd unsuspecting City of Greater Geelong residents who will bravely dare to put yourselves up for election to your council and actually win.
Many of “you” are yet to decide if you will even offer your yourselves as candidates. Indeed, the electoral commission is yet to even advertise for nominations.
Yet, the Minister has very publicly cast a massive vote of no-confidence in you by announcing her intention to appoint not one but two “monitors” to ensure that you are good little girls and boys.
It is absolutely bizarre that Minister Hutchins would even consider pre-empting the lawful outcome of proposed municipal elections, by appointing monitors to oversee the conduct of councillors before the process of electing them has even begun.
This threatens to be back-door external administration of the council until 2020.
It shows total disrespect for both those who will be elected to the Council and to the citizens of Greater Geelong who will have elected them.
I note that the City of Greater Geelong is not the first municipality to which a State Government has appointed caretaker administrators in the 23 years since all of our councils – except the Borough of Queenscliffe – were created in 1994.
It follows a long line of sacked councils:
- 2016 – Benalla Rural City;
- 2013 – Wangaratta Rural City;
- 2009 – Brimbank City;
- 2005 – Glen Eira City;
- 1998 – Nillumbik Shire, and
- 1997 – Darebin City.
And on it goes, with the Central Goldfields Shire also being sacked yesterday (Wednesday).
The appointment of two “monitors” to the City of Greater Geelong will be extraordinary, not only because there will be more than one of them but also because they will surely not be there to watch the councillors. Their real task will be to see and report on the failings of the frustrating and stifling model under which those councillors will be expected to operate.
It is Labor’s demonstrably dysfunctional Kirner-era Local Government Act 1989, rather than the councillors of our municipalities, that is failing to deliver satisfactory outcomes for ratepayers in municipality after municipality across Victoria. This is the reality that repeated appointments of municipal monitors and caretaker administrators cannot hide.
If the Andrews Government cannot muster the will or ability to do away with the current act, then a future Coalition Government will have to look very seriously at replacing it with something that does work.