You doing really well if you’ve got this far and still want to read parts 7-9 of Terry Maher’s excellent Melbourne City Council election series. C’mon judges, only a few minutes to go now.

Let me say from the outset that your correspondent is a very proud Carlton tree hugger. Daily, I hug trees in Cardigan St, Argyle Square, Lincoln Square and the Carlton Gardens. Then I get on my tram (it would be free under Cr John So) and virtually hug all the trees down Swanston St. Then, I get off my tram and walk down Collins St hugging everything organic in sight on the footpath.

P1 (Peter McMullin) tells me that P2 (Peter Sheppard) doesn’t like all us Carlton tree huggers and will take away our voting rights and our trees. Cr Clem Newton-Brown wants to fill the city square with trees and grass. Cr John So wants to turn trees into chopsticks. Harry Barber from the Greens wants to give all the trees a vote. Don Chipp can’t see the trees for the forest. Jacki Turfrey says she created all the native trees and they are secret women’s business. Wellington Lee and Peter Ferne don’t give a stuff about trees because they are more worried about syringes than pine needles. Joe Long has a head made out of chipwood and Stephen Mayne wouldn’t know it was a tree, until a not-too-low-hanging branch hit him in the head.

Mayne, my editor, is my main problem. Not only does he want my vote for Lord Mayor (fat chance) but he also wants me to make up my mind, quickly, about which tree I’m going to vote for in the Melbourne City Council election because all these trees have been cut down to print the voting tickets, how-to-vote cards and glossy brochures which are presently blocking all of our letterboxes.

Now we all have our voting papers in hand and have mostly heard all the candidates making fools of themselves in public forums, I’m prepared to declare my preferences for the mayoral election. But I demand more time for the council ticket because I suggest you follow me and vote below the line for the council election. (Watch this space if you are not a Collingwood supporter and have the mental capacity to count to 97!)

Unfortunately, you can’t vote below the line for the leadership ticket. In fact, you don’t even get a vote for the deputy lord mayor. Nobody gets a vote for the deputy lord mayor because she is the first person in Australia to get elected with nobody voting for her directly. The only other person not to be elected in this election is MCC CEO Michael Malouf. He gets paid nearly three times as much as the lord mayor and has four times as much power but we don’t even get to kiss his arse.

This was the import of a very significant piece of advice to his successor by out-going Lord Mayor, the Right Honourable Cr Peter Costigan, in Saturday’s Hun. The good Cr Costigan has been called many things over the years, but you’d think the incumbent would have some idea about what is required by his successor to fill his shoes (and his glass – Ed.).

We have all read lots of peripheral stuff about the prospective lord mayor’s attitudes to “safe” injecting rooms for smack-heads, the robes and chain, the chauffeur and car, the overseas trips and the content of the wine cellar. But what Peter Costigan, the journalist, gave us on Saturday was a clinical dissection of five areas over which the new lord mayor has to have mastery and control over if he were to be effective: They were authority, the Budget. delegations, administration, pay, media and Spring St.

Cr Costigan makes no bones about the fact that Local Government Minister Bob Cameron (the man who totally stuffed-up WorkCover) set up the new system to shoe-horn P1 (Peter McMullin) into the position as McBracks’ de facto Minister for Melbourne. If P1 doesn’t get up as LM, the new LM may see himself quickly replaced by a de jure Minister for Melbourne appointed by the Bracks Government – unless the new LM can quickly establish his authority, and control, over the council administration, the other eight councillors and develop a good working with the Brackswards Government.

This “instant dismissal” conspiracy theory can be acted upon as soon as the first council meeting, if – as is possible – the eight/seven new councillors move, and pass, a motion of no confidence in the directly elected lord mayor. That would be game, set and match as far as democracy for the citizens of the Melbourne City Council is concerned. Some say, this is Cameron’s sole game plan.

Here’s what Costigan says: “An adversarial relationship between the council and the State Government will get nobody anywhere. While the Bracks Government so far has declined to set up a City-State committee, a la the Adelaide model, it is worth raising it again.” He recommends regular meetings with the Premier and senior ministers whose portfolios impact heavily on the city (Planning, Transport, Major Projects and Sport). “When Melbourne thrives, so does all of Victoria. The opposite is sadly just as true, and all premiers and lord mayors must understand that,” he says.

Then Cr Costigan doesn’t muck about, about the first priority for the newly-elected lord mayor: “At your first council meeting, demand that the councillors delegate to you certain minimal powers, including the right to hire and fire the chief executive (Michael Malouf), more to establish who is the leader of the council than to take any action.”

Your correspondent hears that non-Cr Malouf (an engineer of small stature from Werribee) is absolutely furious about this attack on his prescience by the Lord Mayor – and a previous one by your correspondent about his non-elective, non-effective, non-performance sinecure (CEO Malouf has just returned from a junket to sunny San Diego with Premier Bracks so is probably in a good mood to hiss and spit about his winter-bound critics in Melbourne).

When your correspondent was a young boy, Francis Henry Rogan was town clerk for the City of Melbourne for the significant period between 1956 and 1980. He was then followed by the most excellent Desmond Norman Bethke, who did the same job between 1980 and 1990. In those days, the town clerk was also the returning officer for the city council elections as well as the chief executive officer and the lord mayor’s chief of staff. He was a management professional appointed by the Lord Mayor with approval from the Melbourne City Council.

These town clerks were public servants to the LM and the council and had no other delusions of grandeur. (Peter Thorley was chief commissioner for 9-months in 1981-82 and Kevin Gosper for two years between 1993-96, these were different kettle of fish, with different agendas, from when previous State Government last appointed Ministers for Melbourne.)

Now, the MCC CEO is appointed by headhunters, gets paid about $280,000+ a year, has a staff of nearly 1,000 and is a law unto himself. Cr Costigan points out under his media heading that the council “has a huge media and communications unit costing about $2.3 million a year. Unlike other elected bodies, this council PR machine (CPR Communications) is controlled by the administration – not the lord mayor or the council.” Cr Costigan advises the new lord mayor “to switch control to yourself and the council, and, I suggest, bring a good consultant on board fast.” (This hardly sounds like a testimonial for CPR Communications so let’s hope they have a long-term contract, like the Spotless Group.)

Like an avenging angel, the good Cr Costigan does not genuflect on the steps of the town hall administration’s inner sensitivities when he calls for “all delegations of power given back to the elected council by the council administration”.

“We became aware of the extent of the delegated powers, and the fact that they cover nearly all of the discretionary spending on the council, only during the fine work of the Kirner Facilitation Panel at the end of last year. They cover most planning decisions, street signs, road and pavement works, maintenance contracts, deals with sporting, cultural and other groups, capital expenditure, and even which phone company gets the council’s substantial business.

“Review all these existing delegations,” Cr Costigan warns his successor, “but you will soon learn under which areas councillors will need to decide policy. All the words about “new starts”, “fresh starts”, “new Melbourne”, “shining Melbourne” and so on will remain empty rhetoric unless you tackle this central issue,” he says.

“Continue the weekly meetings (with council directors) and insist that each director list everything on his or her forward agenda. Get the CEO to provide all councillors with the minutes of the weekly meetings, behind closed doors, of the directors and the senior managers.

“Don’t do these things and you will inevitably be caught unawares, not only by reports on contentious issues presented at, or just before, council meetings but you will be unaware of the thinking and activity of in the mass of the council bureaucracy,” says Cr Costigan in a document nailed to the doors of the town hall.

After reading this epistle by the outgoing Lord Mayor, maybe we pundits have got it all wrong about who are the real clowns in Clown Hall. Sure, Circus Oz is playing the big space in the Upper Town Hall, the councillors are playing the council chamber and the candidates are playing the greater public stage. But it seems to your correspondent that the real clowns in clown hall may be led by a side-show Bob called Michael Malouf and his harlequin-garbed directors in the council administration.

Your correspondent can not reach any other conclusion that the LM election must come down to a choice between the multimillionaires P1 and P2 (Sorry Stephen). Your correspondent recommends a vote for P2 (Peter Sheppard) because he was upfront about his interest in the council and the amount he was spending on his campaign. We also think he will do a good job in cleaning up the council administration’s mucky mal-administrations without fear or favour. He told me today he will use the bilge-pump method to hold council costs : “The desperate man with a bucket in a sinking ship.” We like the cut of his gibe.

He also tells me that he grew up in Horsham and he and his deputy, Beverly Kennedy, really like Carlton tree-huggers. We are sorry to disappoint 18 others but there can only be one winner and P2 is our man. We will play council lotto later in the week.

ends

Part 8: ALP set to control council

Your correspondent is here to tell you that the ALP has already won the popular vote for the Melbourne City Council. Cr Kevin Chamberlin, former councillor Kate Redwood and the comely Kimberley Kitching – all Labor Party members – have, according to my extensive number-crunching, all, almost, already secured plush seats on the leather benches of the Melbourne City Council chamber for the next four years.

If P1 (Peter McMullin) gets up as Lord Mayor – a slightly less likely proposition (given the collateral damage he has suffered this week) – the ALP will have five of the nine votes on the new council (with Elaine Canty being the ALP mail-order trophy bride who nobody voted for but gets elected anyway).

This is exactly what Premier Bracks and his Socialist Left acolyte, Bob Cameron, punted on and, seemingly, won late last year when they decided to sack the good Lord Mayor Cr Peter Costigan, and his democratically-elected incumbent council, for failure to kiss enough Spring St arse.

It’s altogether grand, isn’t it?

The State Labor Government sets up a system designed to get up an ALP LM and an ALP dominated council – and wins.

The electorate is totally confused about who is Martha and who is Arthur. But, no matter, Labor wins! What more do you want?

Well, for starters, the three ALP members can not stand each other’s guts. And, the other four members of council are likely to be Cr David Risstrom (Greens), Catherine Ng (John So’s Melbourne Living ticket) and Sue Bourke and Irene Goonan from the Melbourne Civic Group – who can all work together very well and do not tug the ALP forelock.

This majority grouping are even less likely to kiss Spring St arse. That means it is still highly likely that P1 can become LM and have a theoretical majority vote on the 9-member council but still be voted out on a vote of no confidence at the first council meeting.

A popularly-elected lord mayor being defeated by a majority vote of no confidence at the first council meeting? What to do?

Maybe you abolish the council and appoint a Minister for Melbourne?

Maybe the council appoints the LM as a totally-powerless figurehead (who can not even fart without majority approval) and gets on with the business of representative democratic government.

Hang on? Wasn’t that what we had before we started this zero-sum game?

Your correspondent is already on record as saying that he thinks P2 (Peter Sheppard) would, could and should, win the number one prize because he doesn’t carry any were near the Spotless baggage that P1 carries (Stephen Mayne, being a moron, sadly, still can not understand this fundamental concept of conflict of interest).

It is also less likely that a vote of no confidence would be moved against P2 as he is also more likely, to work, harmoniously, with the seven other councillors we have named as the likely winners (and Bracks’ Spring St socialists).

It is also more likely that P2 will seize the day (and the Swanston St administration). The good Cr Costigan says the first thing the new LM should do is demand the power to hire and fire the CEO. He should then demand that the powers that have been delegated to CEO Michael Malouf, and his hideous bloated bureaucracy, be given back to the peoples’ representatives.

But who are the peoples’ representatives? The ALP has abolished the ward system of representation because P1 couldn’t win one last time.

The ward system was the closest we ever came in the City of Melbourne to representative democratic government. It might have been a rotten borough, but it was our rotten borough.

Maybe Comrade Bracks picked up on a bit of this representative democracy stuff from his recent visits to California, Italy and France. Try telling the people from the counties, communes and departments from these great democracies that they should vote for a central government rather than a local government!

I don’t think so.

Who is Bob Cameron anyway?

Steve Price said in Wednesday’s Hun that Jeff Kennett should be our new LM. But why go there?

Your correspondent is here to tell you that we are the people our parents warned us against. To prove the point, I have an urge to list every LM of the City of Melbourne that I can remember from my boyhood. I do not think we needed socialist State governments to create any of these popular icons for us.

The first LM your correspondent can remember was Cr Oliver J. Nelsen, who was LM of the City of Melbourne from 1951-52. These were great years for rock’n’roll and for the next twenty-years O.J. Nelsen’s Greater 3UZ really rocked my socks.

The Greater 3UZ was where your correspondent first heard the jungle rhythms of Crash Craddock, Bill Haley and the Comets, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and sundry other undesirables who still rock my socks to this very day.

There was no heroin on the streets of Melbourne in the 50s, 60s and 70s but we all had transistor radios (bought from Oliver J. Nelsen in Bourke St), stuck to our ears like hypodermic needles, listening to 3UZ. This man (and Stan-the-man) wasn’t just LM of Melbourne, he was King of the Pops. He was far out man.

Next came a series of boring old farts: Bill Brens, Bob Solly, Frank Selleck and Fred Thomas. Frank Selleck became Sir Frank Selleck when he did a good job of being nice to the dagos and royalty during the Olympic Games.

By 1959, Bernard Evan DSO, ED, came on the scene and stayed till the early 60s. Berny Evens really kicked arse. He made a fortune out of property developments but I can’t remember if it was he, Sir Maurie Nathan or Sir Leo Curtis, who all followed his snail trail, who made all the money out of buying all the real estate at both ends of the Westgate bridge before it was even proclaimed.

In those days, we used to say if you could remember the 60s – you weren’t there.

I can’t remember, 05

The new broom came in 1965 (so I’m told) when Frank Beaurepaire became our main man. Franky made tyres and retreads. The inner tubes were so good as floaties that they named a swimming pool after him. Franky’s father had been LM 25-years before that. He followed Arthur Coles from the same family that gave you the Coles Myer stores and he was followed by Sir Thomas Nettlefold whose children later got into outdoor advertising when we were still trying to discover our indoors.

Then came the Civic Group’s Great Ice Age: Reg Talbot was followed by Eddie Best, who was followed by Alwynne Rowlands, who was followed by Alan Whalley. They were the living dead. They were nobody’s leading nobody’s. Everywhere you looked there were stupid people with no ideas and no idea where they could find them. The most exciting meetings in those times were the Lady Mayoress’s Charity Committee bunfight.

Ron Walker, Big Red, first came on the scene as LM as a 30-something in 1974. He has stayed for the next quarter of a century and does not look like going away. He was the curry that came between two servings of gluggy rice.

Big Red did two terms till Don Osborne took over in 1976 and your correspondent, as the new editor of The Melbourne Times, had to interview him on our mutual elevation to high office. I think he was more scared than I was but I don’t think I got a story out of the boring old fart so we will score it him as a victory.

Your correspondent was much more confident when he interview Irvin Rockman when he took up the robes and chains in 1977. I think it was the first time that I had been in the LM’s office and Irvin was playing “Mr Cool Cat” to the editor of the local resident-action radical newspaper. Because it was the 70s, I can remember that Irvin was beautifully-dressed in the wide lapel clobber of the time, had his wide-tie loose, his shoes off and his socked feet on the big desk and was playing Beatles records at me during the entire interview. I think I wrote a glowing story about the new broom at Clown Hall (yes the phrase was a cliche51 then, is at least 30-years old).

I didn’t cover the Melbourne City Council for the next couple of years because I was working in Fleet Street. But even in London, I heard that Ralph Bernardi, a mad Carlton fan, had flown the Carlton flag from the town hall spires after we won the 1979 flag against Collingwood (Costigan never had that pleasure).

Then came Bill Woodruff, the Woodruff’s Dairy man. Then came the three ALP LMs – Bill Gardner, Kevin Chamberlin and Eddie Beacham in the early 80s.

The next LM I remember interviewing was Tommy Lynch in 1985, 05

Enough of this history bullshit.

Your correspondent is merely trying to avoid the inevitable.

Your correspondent is going to vote below the line for Joanna Pace, John Sayers, Catherine Ng, Greg Hoy, Allan Watson, Sue Bourke and Kevin Chamberlin. He will then fill out the other 90 preferences going from left to right.

May God have mercy on his soul.

ends

Part 9: Sara-Marie but is P2 Ben or Blair?

The sign outside the Melbourne Clown Hall says Circus Oz is in residence. But it may as well say Dreamworld because the big building in Swanston Street has become the set for a Big Brother-style virtual reality exercise where the winner is the last lord mayoral-candidate left standing on Saturday night.

On that scenario, P1 (aka Peter McMullin) has become Sara-Marie after starting this beauty parade as red-hot favourite complete with Bracks’ bunny ears, Melbourne City Chamber of Commerce body-piercing and fat Spotless bum-slapping.

But P1 failed to successfully complete a series of challenges set by Big Brother relating to his student politics, family disposition and his pen-friendship with Mexico’s Christopher Skase and was thought to have been evicted by skeptical viewers in the penultimate week.

P1 got a very bad press in the last three weeks of the campaign despite having three PR firms on his side. But he spat the dummy when the preference deals were announced saying that all the other candidates were ganging-up against him.

P1 actually gets all five of the amorphous “United” tickets led by the spunky Queen of the Silver Preference, the absolutely drop-dead-gorgeous Jacki “I am Woman” Turfrey. He may still be in the running if enough people write in for Turfrey before Friday but your correspondent doubts it.

If P1 was Sara-Marie, then Don Chipp was Jemma.

Chippy still has Jemma’s off-the-shoulder sex appeal (with both The Aged and The Hun rooting for him in editorials) but seemed to fail the “dancing doona” test when the cameras focused on the business acumen of his dancing partner, Rilka. He also failed the simple arithmetic test of how many votes there are in “one-vote-one-value”.

Chippy put up a good fight on behalf of Michael Kroger and Andrew Peacock but in the last week seemed more interested in promoting his cricketing prowess and the Christie’s auction of Don Bradman’s bat than striding to the crease in Swanston Street.

Well played, Sir Don! Now you can retire hurt but with your dignity in tact!

So now it’s down to Ben and Blair, 05

But is P2 (aka Peter Sheppard) Ben or Blair?

We think he is definitely one or “the other”.

The “other” on Saturday night is likely to be either John So, Clem Newton-Brown or Wellington Lee.

All three have performed very well during this arduous campaign and could come up on the inside to be either Ben or Blair.

Wellington Lee won lots of Brownie points at the Melbourne Press Club breakfast for his no-nonsense honesty and undoubted integrity but your correspondent does not think he will garner enough first preference votes to get him across the line.

John So is presently basking in the reflected glory of Beijing’s Olympic victory as well as the last-minute endorsements from Lord Mayors Deveson(?) and Costigan – but while So has run a good campaign and is well placed in the preference race, he also suffers from Lee’s problem in that he will not get enough primaries to save him from eviction.

Deputy Lord Mayor Clem Neutron-Bomb tells me that he has enough primaries (25 percent) to see him play Ben or Blair to P2 on Saturday night.

Ken Davidson slagged Neutron-Bomb in the Aged on Monday saying he did not have any policies on his website – an outright lie which indicates that P2 is worried about this Deputy Dawg coming up on the inside.

John So also tells me that he thinks the Deputy Dawg’s Civic Group, with their tandem residents and business tickets, are “polling” very well. This “polling” is of course all guess-work whose truth value will only be known when Big Brother Ray Levingston from the Australian Electoral Commission evicts Blair on Saturday night and leaves Ben grinning like a Cheshire cat.

The real winner, of course, is Machiavelli Michael Malouf, the MCC CEO, who wants to shack-up the nine new councillors in a four-week political education “induction course” into his real political powers in Clown Hall and their complete lack of it.

The first thing they should do on Sunday is to tell him to piss-off. He’s only dreaming!

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Peter Fray

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