On local government transparency

Stephen Mayne writes: Re. “Local government peak body shows disdain for council transparency” (Tuesday). Cr Troy Pickard, major of the City of Joondalup in Perth and President of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), was miffed by this piece in Crikey on Tuesday ahead of next week’s ALGA National General Assembly. He articulated his concerns in the following terms after I wrote to all Joondalup councillors pushing the merits of the 7-point City of Melbourne governance motion which was relegated to the very bottom of the ALGA notice paper as 80th motion for debate:

The Call for Motions documentation sent to the City of Melbourne by ALGA contained some important information about the need for motions to address the theme of the NGA, namely Reform of the Federation and Taxation, Regulation, National Fiscal Settings, Commonwealth National Commission of Audit and Regulation. 

No one would argue that good governance is at the core of Local Government, however it is not relevant to the theme of the 2015 NGA and is accordingly captured as a Reserve Motion.

In isolation your comments sound logical and reasonable, however when cast in light of the Call for Motions, your comments are misleading, ill-informed and derogatory to the Association. Indeed, I find your commentary rather ironic given that you have erred in being fully informed, an important principal of good governance.

Given your comments were made publicly, I respectfully request that you consider correcting the public record.

In the interests of good governance, I will be bringing your correspondence to the attention of the ALGA Board.

We were fully aware of the themes of the conference, but there is no blanket ban on any member councils from putting up whatever motion they like. That is why Latrobe City Council in Victoria’s east was able to propose that the whole of Australia adopt its “Wood Encouragement Policy”. This was ranked three ahead of Melbourne’s governance motion at 76 (see page 93 of the business papers).

Similarly, ALGA claims that motions which go against existing endorsed local government policies are not generally encouraged. If so, why on earth is the Etheridge Shire motion from outback Queensland included as number 6 when it would see a large number of tier one metro councils completely removed from the Commonwealth’s controversially frozen $2.3 billion annual untied Financial Assistance Grants program for all Australian councils.

This will no doubt cause a stoush over subsidies between city and rural councils, but as ALGA notes in the business papers:

“The retention of the minimum grant is supported as policy by all state local government associations as well as ALGA.”

Sure, Etheridge would like to see Brisbane City Council’s $21 million FAG payment redirected to rural councils but the rurals are already receiving much more on a per capital basis and there are a multitude of ways that Australia’s cities subsidise the bush, not just through Federal grants to councils.

ALGA is still refusing to provide a list of delegates until conference packs are distributed on Sunday night, but there is likely to be more than 200 voting councils and 831 delegates attending the three days of debate. Warren Truss, Bill Shorten, Richard di Natale and Greg Hunt will all attend. City of Melbourne is the only Australian council that turned around the 80 motions, which were only released on June 1, and endorsed a voting position in public, as you can from hear over the final 10 minutes of last Tuesday’s committee meeting. We identified 6 motions which will be opposed, but remained officially silent on the other 74, mainly because the quality of many of them was quite poor but they will most likely be supported.

The beauty of being put last is that there will be three days to lobby delegates to support our motion, assuming we get through the whole agenda, as occurred at last year’s conference. If Melbourne’s motion is defeated, a division will be called so that those councils which oppose broad transparency measures will be on the record for all to see.

  • Stephen Mayne is chair of the Finance and Governance committee at City of Melbourne.

Solar confusion

Sam Kennedy writes: Re. “On the Grattan Institute’s solar report” (yesterday). A misunderstanding can only occur if the the argument put forward favours it. Professor Quiggin is far from the only person who thought you were demonising solar power. Next time try being a little more specific on what you are trying to say.

How to counter violent extremism

Greg Chapman-Oliver writes: Re. “Will the terror talkfest address the one thing we know causes radicalisation?” (yesterday). Islamic State has seized a number of oil refining facilities, this means that petroleum companies are buying IS oil probably on the black market. This would be quite a profit for them and it’s ironic we probably have “blood oil” flowing through the veins of our cars. The Iraqi army supplies equipment to IS, big business supplies hard currency.

Gavin Moodie writes: It would be good if Crikey eschewed sexist terms such as “manpower”.

Keeping Up With The Hockeys

Paul Montgomery writes: Re. “A day in Joe Hockey’s little bubble of privilege” (yesterday). Margot Saville’s occasional contributions are always a good read, but none more so than her piece yesterday. It was such a well written, insightful observation of a privileged community that I had to read it three times. Saville painted a picture that put Smokin’ Joe and his ilk in context and nailed it with her closing observation: “Just work hard and get a good job — is that all you did, Joe? I don’t think so.”

David Salter (of Hunter’s Hill) writes: Margot Saville muses that if only she’d married a Sydney University law school boy she might have been one of those well-shod ladies at lunch in Hunter’s Hill, “snapping my fingers for another pinot gris.” Margot should know that it’s the eastern suburbs nouveau riche who snap their fingers at restaurant staff. Hunter’s Hill ladies have much nicer manners (and anyway, the local waiters  will discreetly offer to re-fill your glass before you’ve noticed it’s empty). As for Hunter’s Hill being an exclusive enclave for those born to privilege, Saville could have noted that just around the corner from the Hockeys is the home of Eddie Obeid. They’re not all toffs down there on the peninsula.

Sarah Hanson-Young was right to sue

Jennifer Crowther writes: Re. “Hanson Young’s  Zoo Suit is a Disgrace” (yesterday). Steady on, Crikey. It should be possible to defend the principle of freedom of speech without using Zoo to support your point. The senator was defamed. She was the victim of a public belittling, in an overtly sexualised context. Zoo’s intention was to publish a photo-shopped image and a headline which would sell the magazine, not to communicate any information or opinion to its readership. Why would you defend this under the guise of freedom of speech?  Or were you just wanting the opportunity to use “Zoo Suit” in a headline?