The people of Victoria have spoken over the past month and, after a deluge of button-pushing by the Victorian Electoral Commission over the past four days, we now know who will govern Victoria’s 79 councils for the next four years.
I won’t be one of them, having been turfed by the good burghers of Melbourne, although my preferences achieved the two noteworthy outcomes of denying Lord Mayor Robert Doyle’s team a majority and instead electing Melbourne’s first indigenous councillor, Brooke Wandin, a direct descendant of Wurundjeri elder William Barak.
The baton has also passed at home as the better half, Paula Piccinini, has been elected as one of three representatives in my old ward of Heide in the City of Manningham, as The Age noted this morning.
The mainstream media have put in their worst ever effort covering the state-wide council elections over the past month, especially the local papers in Melbourne owned by Fairfax and News Corp.
Anyway, here are eight noteworthy developments:
- Female representation is up from 34% to 38% statewide with the most notable change being in Darebin (based around David Feeney’s federal seat of Batman) where control has shifted from Labor to the Greens and a 7-2 male majority has become a 6-3 female majority;
- It’s never too late to start a political career. Former Liberal Party whip Stewart McArthur, 79, held the federal seat of Corangamite for 23 years from 1984 until 2007. Now Beverley McArthur, his wife of 32 years, has been elected to the local Corangamite council, where she will serve with another newbie, former police whistleblower Simon Illingworth, who was featured on Australian Story. Will they allow development around the 12 Apostles on Victoria’s Great Ocean road?
- The longest serving President of the Municipal Association of Victoria, Bill McArthur, has been booted out by the people of Golden Plains, where he was unable to finish in the first seven in a 12-horse field. The MAV will be looking for an interim president this week and the Australian Local Government Association is also chasing a new vice-president. This will open up an opportunity for Boroondara (think Josh Frydenberg’s Federal seat of Kooyong) councillor Coral Ross to become the first ever female elected for a two-year term as MAV president — if she isn’t first shafted as MAV delegate by the growing number of Liberals on her council;
- Former electrician Mike Symon held the Federal seat of Deakin from 2007 until 2013, now he’s just been elected to the City of Maroondah where he will be facing down local proxies for his successor in Deakin, hardline Liberal conservative Michael Sukkar;
- The Mirabellas just can’t get any love from the people of Wangaratta. Sophie Mirabella lost her seat of Indi in north-eastern Victoria to independent Cathy McGowan in 2013 then saw her primary vote crash again when she re-contested in 2016. Now husband Greg has tilted at Wangaratta Council, which has only just come out of administration, and both he and controversial running mate Julian Fidge failed to finish in the top four in their ward when there was only 10 in the field;
- More than 30% of candidates were successful over the weekend, given that 2135 contested the 636 positions but former councillors are much less likely to pull off a comeback. We’ve named about 80 comeback councillors on this list but less than 15 of them were elected. Once you’re out, voters seem reluctant to go back to the future;
- The Federal member for Higgins, Kelly O’Dwyer, will be breathing a sigh of relief after the Greens lifted their numbers from 18 to more than 30 statewide but were most disappointed to go backwards from two Stonnington councillors in 2012 to none on the weekend, after exceedingly narrow losses in two of the three wards.
- Neighbouring Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby has more to worry about when the Greens went from zero out of seven to three of the expanded nine councillors in the City of Port Phillip. However, reflecting the genuine three-way contest in Melbourne Ports, they will be co-existing with two Liberal and two Labor councillors — a level of big-party diversity only matched by City of Melbourne which has two Labor, two Green and two Liberal Party members;
- Labor only endorsed about 20 candidates across the state but will finish up with more than 60 members who are councillors, as this list demonstrates. However, there will also be a number of expulsions of councillors who broke party rules by not preferencing fellow party members first. The Liberals are expected to finish with more than 50 councillors and the Greens should be into the lows 30s, more than any other state;
- The VEC determined 12 results on Friday, 63 over the weekend, and the final three — Mildura, Casey and Wyndham — this morning. Today’s big news is that Victoria’s richest councillor, Intaj Khan, got re-elected in Wyndham despite receiving a lot of stick from The Age during the campaign.
With the results all known, there has been an outbreak of coffee dates and lobbying as these randomly selected boards of directors must now select a mayor by early next week in order to get on with the business of running their communities.
Victoria gives the public less say in mayoral selection than any other state, with only Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle directly elected over the weekend. This may change as the state government completes a wholesale review of the Local Government Act over the next two years.
*Former City of Melbourne councillor Stephen Mayne is now a nobody and can say whatever he likes about local government. Watch out!