Greg Barber is almost certain to be elected to the Victorian upper
house at this year’s state election and could very well become the
leader of the Greens team holding the balance of power. Barber was Victoria’s first mayor in the City of Yarra and was strongly
defending his financial management records in story 23 from Crikey on January 23.

However, despite this detailed profile in The Age in 2003, there is one aspect of Barber’s record which hasn’t been mentioned
and which will certainly count against him in the Northern Metropolitan
region when voters go to the polls on November 25.

Yes, despite his Green agenda and Yarra’s financial predicament at the time, Barber
decided to keep the mayoral car for his entire term. It was his successor at Yarra, Labor’s
Kay Meadows, who ditched the council car and the policy has been
maintained by current mayor Jackie Fristacky, an independent with
Liberal connections given she once worked for Kennett Minister Roger
Hallam and is married to former Philip Lynch adviser Brian Buckley.

Getting rid of the council car and riding the bike to work is surely an
obvious policy for any Green Mayor. After all, the other Green mayor from
Victoria, Janet Rice
in the Maribyrnong, has only been in office for two months but one of
the first things she did was ditch the council car and start riding to
work, which turned out to be a PR coup that generated plenty of mainstream coverage.

By way of contrast, Labor’s Mark Higginbotham in neighbouring Moreland announced last July that he was buying a more environmentally friendly Toyota Prius. C’mon Mark, get with the program!

Barber, who has an MBA, certainly appeared to do a good job turning
Yarra’s finance around and some Greens still criticise him for being
too focused on balancing the books, which isn’t such a bad thing for
someone on the Left aiming for mainstream political power. However, he
will come to regret keeping the car and has certainly been criticised
for this inside the Victorian Greens.