Socialist councillor Sue Bolton, first elected to Moreland City Council in 2012 and re-elected in 2016, is standing again. Moreland is a hub of community activism going back to the anti-conscription movement during World War I.
Bolton has won widespread support for her unstinting work in community-led struggles, including for climate action and refugee rights and the decision to not recognise January 26 as Australia Day.
Most recently, before the pandemic emergency, she joined the campaign to save the historic Gandolfo Gardens that while ultimately, unsuccessful, brought the community together and sowed the seeds for further fights.
Bolton successfully won council support in 2015, including funds, for what ended up being a successful community campaign to block of the East-West Link tollway.
She is a staunch anti-racist, organising an anti-racist march in 2016 with the community despite threats from the far-right and police, and the wilting support from Greens councillors.
Affordable housing and poverty are two important justice issues Bolton believes council can and should play a big role in alleviating, through campaigns to get the state government to fund services at the local government level.
Bolton has also worked hard to save public land along Merri Creek and Moonee Ponds Creek from being sold off to developers.
She has won council support to develop an Urban Forest policy to combat extreme heat, for phasing out the toxic herbicide glyphosate (Roundup), stopped the outsourcing of the council’s waste service and managed to shift a substation away from a family’s house.
“One memorable moment was when council unanimously supported my motion to reject a permit to develop a toxic site in Fawkner which was contaminated with Agent Orange chemicals. This was not inevitable, because I had very little support initially. Council was finally convinced by the 12-month campaign by local residents.”
For her efforts to get council to stop recognising January 26 as Australia Day, Bolton received abusive phone calls, as well as support from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who were relieved that council was finally beginning to recognise “the beginning of the genocide against their people”.
“I don’t see social change as just coming from a discussion between elected representatives and taking a vote. I see my role as helping to foment and organise community resistance against various anti-social and environmentally destructive projects,” Bolton told Green Left in 2015.
She has the same approach today.
This progressive approach is under threat, however, as Labor is organising with its considerable funds and platform to win back control of inner-city councils, including Moreland. Labor’s focus is on “road, rates and rubbish”. For Bolton, this is “code for backing away council’s commitments on climate action, and support for refugees and the Aboriginal community.”
The election is on October 24.
Meanwhile, in Moreland, Greens councillors have given the Labor councillors a free kick with their heavy-handed and bureaucratic policies on parking and development.
Bolton said that the Greens are supporting Zero Parking developments and removing access to unlimited on-street parking. They argue that this will force a shift from the private car to “active” transport — walking, cycling and public transport.
“That would be fine if there was an accompanying increase in public transport, but there isn’t. The parking restrictions will penalise families who need a second car to get to work. Zero Parking developments have no parking spaces for the people who service people in the apartments — tradespeople, disability carers and other health carers.”
While she supports public transport and understands the need to reduce car patronage, she said such moves cannot become a weapon against those without other options. If widespread, Zero Parking developments would “simply be a handout to developers and lead to traffic chaos”.
Bolton is standing for re-election to Moreland Council as part of a ticket of Socialist Alliance members and community independents around the theme “Community Need not Developer Greed”. The full ticket will be announced at the campaign volunteers’ launch on May 30.