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Minister Abandons Ratepayers to Faceless Men

The failure of the Andrews Government to respect ratepayers is another clear demonstration that democracy is now enslaved to secret powerbrokers.

Local Government Minister Adem Somyurek announced the Local Government Bill rewrite in June last year, promising to “revitalise democracy.”

Surprisingly, there was actually something new and useful proposed: the ability for residents to petition for an inquiry into Councillor conduct.

When Minister Somyurek announced the petition, he trumpeted several strong reasons for including power for residents in the new Local Government legislation:

  • It would devolve power from the unelected CEO back to the community without residents having to wait for an election

  • It would allow the source of the mandate to remove the mandate

  • It would give confidence in Council overall, if there were no petitions

Resident petitions disappeared from the Bill. Secretly, quietly.

Not one political party raised the issue.

Not one political party made a fuss that ratepayers and residents were being denied a significant opportunity to take action against Councillors who failed to do their job properly.

There is now nothing simple nor practical ratepayers can do, to alert the Government to corruption, or greed, or neglect, before Councils have created an embarrassing, expensive mess that ratepayers have to financially fix.

The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV- virtually a union for Councils) was the only group that officially argued against the petition of inquiry, so either the MAV has overwhelming lobbying power with the Minister or other, secret antagonists were pushing to kill the idea, or perhaps both.

These are all the measures I took, to try to lobby to put the petition of inquiry back into the Legislation:

  • Several emails to the Minister regarding sections of the Bill. Received generic responses from the Director of Local Government Victoria.

  • Local MP Melissa Horne: refused to meet, said there’d already been years of consultation on the Bill, she had to vote with the Government and suggested I contact the independent Upper House MP .

  • Upper House ALP MP Cesar Melhem. Met with me, scanned through my 24 page table reviewing the Bill and said he could object on my behalf if he wanted to. Did nothing. During upper house committee debate on the Bill, he made one interjection on behalf of the Government.

  • Independent MP Catherine Cumming. Met. Took my review pages. Emailed later asking for questions. Asked most if not all of my questions during the debate stage of the Bill in the Upper House.

  • Various emails to other ALP and Liberal local MP representatives. Ignored.

  • I also contacted non-local MPs including Greens and Justice Party. Only one reply from the Justice Party, saying there had already been much consultation.

So, there I am, one insignificant, irrelevant voter. And one minor MP with no power.

Up against two Government MPS who are bound by party rules to vote for anything the Government wants. And up against the MAV, which is funded by taxpayers and gets to have regular meetings with the Minister, his advisors and the Director of Local Government Victoria.

(I tried to ring the Director of Local Government Victoria once. I got through to his direct line. His secretary wanted to know how I got through to her. And I only got an answer to my question by accident, several months later when I approached him at a public hearing on rates and asked him in person and he couldn't ignore me.)

Where is my representation on legislation that affects me?

And what of the other ratepayers and residents without the time, money or expertise to form lobby groups and pay to get MP's attention through donations?

Or build websites such as these to make up for failures in the mainstream media?

No representation for me, means no votes for them.

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