Socialist Alliance councillor Sue Bolton is happy to be able to continue working on unfinished community projects, after being reelected for a third term in the north-east ward of Moreland City Council.
“There are lots of community projects that would have been abandoned, or harder to win, if I was not reelected to council to back up them up,” Bolton told Green Left.
Despite an attempt by conservative independents to oust her and the Greens councillors in the north-east ward with a tight preference swap, Bolton’s vote rose. The right-wing push against the progressive councillors failed, but almost succeeded in facilitating the election of a Donald Trump supporter.
Bolton attributed her victory to eight years of “supporting community campaigns” including against racism, fighting to maintain the right to have meaningful input over development applications and fighting to ensure marginalised people’s needs are not overlooked.
The Greens withstood big swings against them to maintain four council positions: in the south ward, the swing against was 27.49%; in the north-east, it was 8.5% and in the north-west it was 6.2%.
According to Bolton, the backlash against the Greens was largely because of their “bureaucratic implementation of policies, such as parking restrictions, that would make life more difficult for working-class families”.
While Moreland is better served with public transport compared to other outer suburban areas, it doesn’t have good enough public transport to replace a lot of car trips, she said.
The Labor Party also recorded a small negative swing: it ran a conservative “roads, rates and rubbish” campaign and picked up just one new councillor — property developer Milad el-Halabi.
Bolton’s focus on community need, not developer greed, was aimed at highlighting what Socialist Alliance believes council’s priorities should be.
A major part of the work revolved around making determinations on planning applications. She said Labor's decision to run a property developer in the north-west ward was “outrageous”.
El-Halabi has been named in The Age and the Herald Sun as potentially being implicated in a vote rigging scandal in that ward — a major embarrassment.
The vote rigging was uncovered by the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) during the vote count for that ward. It found multiple votes for the same person and that the signatures on the envelope flaps for that voter did not match the signatures on their voter enrollment forms.
The VEC declared the election and then applied to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to have the results for north-west ward declared void. A police investigation has begun.
Bolton was part of a team of Socialist Alliance members and community independents that stood candidates in all three wards. While the team failed to win positions in the other wards, Bolton is happy with the strong support shown for the politics the team presented.
Despite the Stage 4 lockdown, which meant that candidates were not allowed to letterbox, door knock, hold street stalls or put up corflutes and posters, the team mobilised about 200 volunteers.
Campaign work was limited to social media and phone-outs to supporters. Public forums, fundraising events and residents’ meetings had to be conducted through video calls until a few weeks before voting began.
Moreland residents include high numbers of casual, hospitality and arts workers, who lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic. There are also many international students, especially in the northern suburbs of Fawkner and Glenroy, who are not eligible for any kind of federal assistance.
Bolton is going to continue to push Moreland council to set up a food bank to help. “At the beginning of the pandemic, I tried but I couldn’t get anyone to second my motion, so it lapsed. Dandenong council has invested heavily in a food bank, showing that councils can and in some cases, are, playing an important role to help the most vulnerable.”
Bolton also wants the new council to keep the grass in Hosken Reserve in Coburg North, rather than it being turned into a synthetic soccer pitch. Her reasoning is that it would keep the reserve accessible to more people.
She is also going to continue the fight to stop council outsourcing its Home Care service and continue to push for stronger action on stopping climate change.