Socialists demand Victoria's councils stand up for people

October 12, 2012
Socialist Alliance candidate for Moreland council, Sue Bolton.

Elections are coming up for local councils across Victoria. Many candidates are reflecting community campaigns, but others are reflecting the interests of developers and other business interests.

Because council ballot papers don’t identify candidates’ party affiliation, the Liberal and Labor parties often don’t endorse candidates. Instead, members of the Liberal and Labor parties run as “independents”.

Twenty-four candidates will run in the north-east ward of the Moreland council. Ten are Labor Party members and three are Liberal Party members, but none identify as such in their leaflets.

The two big parties use local elections as a battleground between the factions and sub-factions of these parties, and to “blood” their political aspirants. The Greens have 106 candidates across Victoria.

Socialist Alliance is standing Sue Bull for mayor of Geelong and Sue Bolton for the north-east ward of Moreland Council in Melbourne. The Socialist Party is standing five candidates in all three wards of the Yarra Council, including their current councillors Stephen Jolly and Anthony Main.

Bull caused a stir in the media and among candidates when she said she would “only accept the average wage of a skilled worker and donate the rest of the mayoral salary to community campaigns for social justice and the environment”.

This prompted another candidate to say he would cut the mayoral salary by half. However, that would still leave a salary of almost double the average wage. The average wage is about $67,000, whereas Geelong's mayor receives a salary of $310,000.

Sue Bull is the only candidate in the mayoral race to openly declare an affiliation with a political party, the Socialist Alliance. Almost all other candidates represent business interests.

Bull is pushing for a campaigning council that would back the interests of the local community, and support campaigns against state and federal governments cuts. She said Geelong council should build a “community fightback against the state government’s cuts to TAFEs and also fight for more public transport in Geelong”.

The north-east ward of Moreland council covers the Melbourne suburbs of Coburg, part of Brunswick, half of Pascoe Vale and Fawkner. Bolton’s campaign platform is “Community need, not developer greed”.

“One of the big issues in all parts of Moreland is developer greed,” Bolton told Green Left Weekly. “The current council has been ignoring residents’ campaigns against inappropriate high rises. Many residents who would normally vote for the Greens in state and federal elections, are very unhappy with the Greens at the local level for being pro-developer.”

Bolton said the council needs to impose mandatory height limits instead of the current “flexible height limits” and all controversial developments need to be voted on by council instead of unelected staff.

Bolton also called for improvements to local amenities, public transport and an end to
privileged treatment for developers.

The Socialist Party candidates are running under the name “Yarra Socialists”. At the most recent council meeting, Socialist Party councillor Anthony Main moved a motion for the Yarra council to report back on ways the council could act to improve late night safety.

To counter rising demands for more CCTV, Main proposed improving taxi rank areas on late night strips and employing council safety officers at taxi ranks.

All socialist candidates are campaigning for councils to address the rising cost of living, and believe that council rates and charges should not be raised above inflation.

In the City of Melbourne, seven of the nine tickets running have signed a statement from Occupy Melbourne activists to hold an independent inquiry into the heavy handed eviction of Occupy Melbourne from City Square in October last year.

Only “Team Doyle”, led by incumbent mayor and former state Liberal leader Robert Doyle, is opposed to an inquiry.

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