Council elections – if party affiliations aren’t obvious, look for the clues

As already noted, it’s council voting time.

In some council areas, including here in Glen Eira, council candidates aren’t overtly aligned with political parties.

But a number of candidates have affiliations. You just have to look for clues.

  • Look for photos of candidates with state or federal MPs, ministers and leaders, particularly at events not publicised in advance (eg party events)
  • Candidate preferences will link them to other aligned candidates, and against those nominally in their “opposition” party
  • If local MPs recommend particular candidates, that’s often a sign of affiliation

Glen Eira council election posters 2016

For instance, in my area, Tucker Ward (Glen Eira), we have 14 candidates vying for 3 vacancies. Here are some of the clues I’ve noticed:

Nina Taylor – Labor aligned – flyer shows a pic of Mark Dreyfus, and it’s authorised by someone I know to be a Labor campaign manager. Preferences exchanged with Rodney Andonopoulos, who is also Labor aligned.

Jamie Hyams – Liberal aligned – flyer is authorised by an ex-Liberal state MP, and flyer shows a photo with new Federal Liberal member Tim Wilson.

Philip De’ath – Liberal aligned – he and Hyams are preferencing each other, and their flyers arrived in the mailbox together. De’ath’s flyer also has a photo of him with former Liberal MP Elizabeth Miller. De’ath and Hyams both preference Anne-Marie Cade third; so far she’s been invisible in the campaign.

Joshua Bonney – unclear – being preferenced by Karina Okotel, who is apparently his sister! Karina was a Liberal senate candidate, though it’s unclear if Bonney is similarly aligned.

Michael Searle and Neil Brewster – declare themselves to be independents, and are preferencing each other.

Donna Elliot and Michael Karlik also say they are independent. Karlik preferences Bonney.

Jim Magee preferences independents and Labor candidates above others.

Oscar Lobo, who I thought was Labor aligned, actually preferences independents above known Labor candidates. He’s put his fellow current councillors (Hyams and Magee) last.

It’s important to remember that any affiliation doesn’t necessarily mean a councillor will automatically align themselves with that party and its policies.

It may give some more insights into their views on particular issues. But I think the best way of determining that is to read the material carefully and discuss the issues that matter to you with the candidates — many of them have been seen at local railway stations and even schools in the past week, and all have a contact phone number and/or email address. Some are also on Twitter and/or Facebook.

Based on my contact with candidates, it looks like my top three preferences will be one each of a Lib, a Lab and an independent. And while I don’t have major problems with council services or overall management, recent kerfuffles at council meetings makes me think some new blood would be nice. But I’ll do some more reading in the next few days before sending my forms in.

Bentleigh Uniting Church takes a stand

Many around Australia would know of the Gosford Anglican Church, thanks to Father Rod Bower and his famous signs.

A couple of weeks ago this sign appeared at the Bentleigh Uniting Church. It now seems to have disappeared in favour their more usual list of events.

It pleases me to see messages like this.

Immigration, and the mandatory detention of refugees, is a difficult issue. I’m not going to pretend that I know of a simple answer that both treats people humanely and deters and prevents drownings at sea, but the current position of taking desperate people, locking them up off-shore at arms length from Australian law and responsibility, often ignoring concerns, and particularly the secrecy involved, is something that troubles me greatly.

Right now we as a nation are trying to put past crimes, such as church sexual abuse, in the spotlight. I wonder if in decades to come we’ll be regretting and investigating our current treatment of asylum seekers in a similar way.

I hope the sign got a few people thinking more about this issue, and possible solutions.

Border Force farce

If you haven’t heard about Friday’s Australian Border Force debacle in Melbourne, here’s the background: Timeline: How Operation Fortitude unravelled

It started with their Friday morning statement, which said, among other things:

“ABF officers will be positioned at various locations around the CBD speaking with any individual we cross paths with.”

The media dutifully reported it. The prospect of officers stopping people on the street and demanding proof of immigration status was, of course, bound to get a negative reaction.

Cue a backpedal from ABF:

“The Australian Border Force (ABF) will not be ‘stopping people at random’ in Melbourne to ‘check people’s papers’ as reported in media this morning regarding Operation Fortitude.”

As pretty much reported in your own statement, actually.

The original release also noted a media launch at 2pm at Flinders Street station, and with a rapidly rising level of outrage over what it all meant, that was enough to get a protest.

As it was more-or-less lunchtime, I wandered down. I came through the station, and saw an ABF officer, a Victoria Police officer and a uniformed Metro employee in a huddle, looking furtively towards the protesting crowd nearby.

I stood nearby and watched the protests for a while. It was not a huge crowd — media later estimated 300 — but they were doing plenty of chanting. Given the type of protest, there were of course some with Socialist Alliance banners, but it didn’t appear that they were in the majority.

When I left, the protesters had moved into the intersection, and were blocking traffic. (Note the sign on St Paul’s Cathedral.)

Border Force protest, 28/8/2015

While I was there it was peaceful but noisy, and it was enough to get the official media event cancelled… but of course, having gathered protesters and media to the site, coverage was guaranteed.

Shortly afterwards, Victoria Police advised that the entire operation was cancelled.

Subsequently the Victorian Police Minister issued a press release, expressing something less than complete happiness at what had occurred.

Operation Fortitude was intended to be a standard police operation.

We fully support the decision by Victoria Police to cancel the operation after the unfortunate and inappropriate characterisation by the Australian Border Force today.

So now we’ve all heard of Border Force

It strikes me that if it was an exercise in brand recognition, then it was a resounding success… but really it’s all about politics, and in those terms, it was a disaster.

Even the name is overly political. The ABC explains that the ABF merged the frontline functions of Customs and Immigration.

But the name isn’t as utilitarian as Customs or Immigration. Australian Border Force is a macho, action-man name evidently designed, along with current immigration policies, to make the government look tough.

Remember, the launch was botched: at the announcement in July 2014, they managed to prominently use an image of a faceless authoritarian tough guy that was never intended to be used as a standalone logo, leading to numerous parodies and the graphic designer to remark “It was never meant to be a logo; it was just a small icon. It’s been overemphasised and so I can understand the reaction.”

As for Friday’s cancelled operation, why would anybody think sending these guys in to piggyback on a Victoria Police operation was a good idea in the central business district of Australia’s most left-wing capital city, and one of its most multi-cultural?

I’m betting they won’t try that again in a hurry.

Down to business: a study in contrasts

I’m not the world’s biggest drinker. So last Thursday night after a chat with a PT industry insider over 2 pints and a pot, I was feeling a bit tipsy as I headed home.

Waiting at Flinders Street for a train home, I encountered one of the Spring Street state press gallery’s Finest and Brightest, and we had a chat on the platform then on the train for a few stops. Hopefully not too many words were slurred on my part.

Daniel Andrews at Bentleigh station during the 2014 Victorian election campaign

The two conversations had some overlap, and something I thought was interesting was this:

The Andrews government has wasted no time in getting on with things. There are plenty of announcements of new initiatives coming through.

In fact in one week in February, they went ballistic in the public transport portfolio, announcing a level crossing removal authority (Sunday), start of metro rail tunnel works (Monday), the Murray Basin Rail Project (Tuesday), and upgrades to Flinders Street Station (Wednesday).

In contrast, the perception was the Baillieu government was treading water for about a year after their election. Lots of existing programmes went for review (in the public transport space, Myki and Regional Rail Link), and parts of government froze up while they sorted out what they were doing.

Trust me when I say Ted Baillieu is a very nice bloke, and eventually they did get going and did things, but it was a slow start.

Could it be that Andrews was more ready; that he’d done his time as a minister previously, and had spent time in opposition preparing more thoroughly for winning? Perhaps Baillieu didn’t quite expect to win? (It was, after all, a very close thing.)

Could it be the length of time each side had been out of office? Labor was only out for 4 years; the Coalition for 11 — perhaps they were a little rusty?

Perhaps it’s that Andrews, having seen what happened to the Baillieu/Napthine government and their removal from office after just one term, is determined to make the most of his time in office?

Nobody wants to be a One Term Wonder. I’m sure it’ll be at the forefront of Coalition thinking the next time they’re in office.

One term governments are a new reality in Australia: Victoria and Queensland have both done it. Who’ll be next? Perhaps the shorter news cycles and the quick dissemination of news via Twitter and other social media means the entire political cycle is compressed into a shorter time now? Do people have less patience?

I don’t know. But it’s an interesting contrast, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one watching progress in the next few years.

The #EWLink billion dollar booby trap

The East West Link side-letter is a bit like a contractual version of Pauline Hanson’s assassination video: Fellow Victorians, if you are seeing this now, it means East West Link has been killed.

The previously secret East West Link “side letter”, offering compensation even if the contract was deemed invalid, seems to underscore just how desperate the State Coalition was to build the road — despite it being a project that:

Here’s an excerpt from the document, which perhaps surprisingly, was released by the Coalition themselves yesterday:

East West Link side letter

It’s a bit like a contractual version of Pauline Hanson’s assassination video: Fellow Victorians, if you are seeing this now, it means East West Link has been killed.

Obviously it was designed to ensure the project went ahead, even if the Coalition was voted out, and Labor tried to cancel it. A billion dollar booby trap.

East West Link: eastern section, western gateway in Royal Park

I think this is far worse than simply signing a bad contract. It goes much further, by offering a kind of insurance against its later cancellation (which, as a reminder, happens regularly).

This is veering into the territory of… how do I put this? It’s lacking respect for the electorate so much that you would force your decision onto them, even if they specifically voted against it. Remember, numerous people from Tony Abbott down declared the November 2014 election a referendum on the project.

This kind of letter says “We want this built. We don’t have a mandate for it, but we don’t care what you think. And if you vote us out, we’re going to try and force the other side to build it anyway.”