As the race for the Lord Mayor begins to intensify the usual suspects put forward their names as contenders for Melbourne LM001 driver’s seat. Failed candidates and recycled politicians are being dusted off and put on show as the contenders approach the starting gate.
The old nag list includes past Councillor and rejected Deputy Lord Mayor Peter McMullin who sees an opening and a comeback opportunity.
McMullin’s stint on the City Council was a lack luster and divisive term of office. He was originally appointed Deputy Lord Mayor in following the 1996 Council election. Soon after taking Office McMullin betrayed the electorate and supported the State Governments assault on City Planning and Melbourne’s controversial Museum development. His appeasement and back flip was seen as his down fall and he soon lost the Deputy Lord Mayor’s position as a result. The period that followed McMullen’s election in 1996 saw the decline of governance and the rise of corruption take hold of the City Council under the administration of Michael Malouf former City of Geelong CEO). McMullin’s policy of appeasement oversaw the blackest period of governance in the cities history. The rot had set in and remained for years following.
In 2001 the State government had to step-in and reform the City Council and part of its reform was the introduction of a direct election model for Lord Major. Brought in by Left Minister Bob Cameron the direct election model added to the rise of corruption in the City Council. The city Council was no longer managed by component staff and the council became a feather bed of corrupt practices. Professional governance was no longer a virtue or goal.
The council under John So, who was Melbourne’s first directly elected Lord Mayor in 2001, went from bad to worst. Michael Malouf was dumped and replaced in 2003 with John So’s against the recommendation of the Council’s Finance Committee chairman, Kevin Chamberlain, appointing David Pitchford as Malouf’s replacement. What followed were a continued decline in governance and a blow-put in council expenditure as staff were allowed to rule the roost unchecked and unfettered.
The City Council under the miss-guidance of then Legal and Governance Officer, Allison Lyon, came under review by the State Ombudsman. Alison Lyon tried desperately to hinder the Ombudsman review of the City Council. The Ombudsman later uncovered a host of corrupt practices and on going attempts at cover up in the way in which the Council was administered.
Council Staff were engaged in wholesale cover-up of abuse and misuse of Council’s travel and expense allowances, with Staff trying to explain the reasons why Council expenses statements did not record accurately Council’s expenses was due to the fact that expenses, which where over one year old, had not been acquitted in the council books. Missing and unaccounted was tens of thousands of dollars of ratepayers money with the City Auditors being compromised and dragged into the Staff’s cover up and attempts of avoidance. There was no accountability and Councillors had been compromised by accepting offers of luxury overseas junkets and feather bedding opportunities.
The City Council is in need of a major shakeup. The direct election model has failed to deliver good governance and accountability. The resurrection of failed local Councillors is not the solution.
The community, both business and residents alike, had called for a review of the Council’s structure. The State Government instead of addressing the need for further reform buried its head in the sand and ignored the obvious and refused to subject the City Council to the normal review process that every other Municipal council was subjected to.
Recycling failed candidates who are part of the cause of the problems facing Melbourne is not the solution.
If Melbourne is to be revived and Council held accountable to ratepayers then it will be up to the voters of Melbourne to take control and send a clear message of concern and disapproval in November.
Melbourne needs some hard heads with serious business acumen and ability to regain control of a Council that is seriously out of control and lost from reality. They will need to be independent from the State Government and insist in a proper and full open public review, not one held behind closed doors as was the case back in 2001. The City Council should have undergone a review in 2007 and the outcome of the review should have been implemented prior to next month’s election.