Bigger’n Taylor Swift!


    The meetings at Hobsons Bay and Brimbank council last month were bigger’n Taylor Swift!. Well no, maybe your correspondent exaggerates. But there were a lot of people both in and outside council chambers on Altona’s Civic Parade and Sunshine’s Hampshire Road.

    The attraction seemed to be the tabling of motions to acknowledge the conflict in Israel and Gaza. Passing the proposals potentially meant Hobsons Bay and Brimbank would join Wyndham, Maribyrnong and five other Victorian councils in explicitly supporting Palestine in the conflict.

    Well, motions were tabled, debated and passed in both Hobsons Bay and Brimbank council, but each had a very different outcome. Read on for more …. 


    But over in Maribyrnong, last month’s council meeting was much quieter. A mere three people sat in the gallery (plus your correspondent), to hear how council was progressing with its November commitment to support peace in Gaza and Palestine.

    Responding to a query during public question time, CEO Celia Haddock said council officers were currently “reviewing and determining” next steps “in regard” to the November notice of motion, which included investigations into cancelling contracts with companies that supply equipment to the Israeli defence force.

    Ms Handcock said the report could “take some time”. 

    In other Maribyrnong news, a 111-signature petition was received, calling for a local cat curfew between sunset and sunrise.

    The petition said Maribyrnong cats are currently “allowed to roam free”.

    “This has a devastating impact on local native wildlife, particularly ring-tail possums and bird species.”

    Council voted unanimously to receive the petition, although Cr Sarah Carter was quick to “clarify” that the vote was to merely “note” the petition.

    “No decision has been made,” she said.

    In moving the motion, Cr Michael Clarke said council would ask the CEO to “consider” the petition and “determine an appropriate response”.

    “Cats are at much higher risk of illness and injury if allowed to roam,” the petition said. “Cats can live their best lives at home when they have a comfortable environment.”

    The petition said the City of Knox has trialled a sunset to sunrise curfew, with many residents calling for a 24-hour curfew.

    The petition said a 24-hour ban on free-roaming cats has already been implemented on the Mornington Peninsula.


    At least 50 people were milling around outside Brimbank chambers before its meeting last month.

    There were placards, flags and even a three-piece band with keyboard, guitar and singer.

    Inside chambers, the two municipal monitors appointed by Local Government Minister, Melissa Horne to report on Brimbank’s governance processes, sat at the council table, unobtrusively observing proceedings. 

    Registrations to attend the meeting had sold out early, and the overflow was directed to an adjacent room where people could view proceedings from a live-stream.

    There was so much interest in the motion to acknowledge the impact of the Israel/Gaza conflict on the Brimbank community that council moved it up the agenda to sit with the motion to accept the 3408-signature pro-Palestinian petition.

    Council’s acceptance of the petition was met with a round of applause from the gallery.

    In raising the notice of motion for council to officially support a ceasefire in Gaza, Cr Virginia Tachos’ voice shook as she said many had asked her why she should bring a complex international conflict into a local government chamber.

    “It is relevant when my constituents who voted for their voices to be represented in chamber express complete despair, deep unfathomable pain for the immense loss of life, the displacement and the reality that their families and loved ones face daily,” she said. “We as elected councillors cannot turn away.”

    Cr Tachos said she, and other councillors, had received threatening phone calls and messages to “shut down this discussion”.

    “But we must speak out on human rights and for the immediate cessation of the bombing and violence in this area.”

    Cr Jasmine Nguyen moved an amendment to include the items called for in the tabled petition, including explicit statements of support for the people of Palestine.

    But she said the amendments were not in support of one side or the other, but to express “anti-colonialism”.

    “Nobody wins in war,” she said. “But there is a power imbalance … there is not an equal coverage of what is happening to the people of the middle east …there are human rights violations.”

    Council passed the amended motion unanimously amid applause and whoops from the gallery.

    Hobsons Bay

    It was a very different atmosphere over at Hobsons Bay, where people were none-too-pleased when council passed the motion to support residents impacted by overseas conflict.

    The problem appeared to be council’s decision to merge the motion with officially receiving a 507-signature petition calling for council to show support for Palestine.

    The petition lobbied council to explicitly support the people of Palestine in Gaza, including flying the Palestinian flag above chambers.

    Meanwhile, the motion to support Hobsons Bay residents impacted by overseas conflict had no mention of the current clash in Gaza.

    “… the role of council is ‘to provide good governance in its municipal district for the benefit and well-being of the municipal community’ and does not allocate any role, responsibility or authority in relation to international conflicts or affairs,” the motion said. 

    As the motion to merge the two items passed by four votes, the back row of the packed public gallery erupted.

    “You haven’t even mentioned Palestine, you haven’t mentioned Gaza, we want a ceasefire in it, we want Palestine in it, it’s a disgrace,” a lone voice was heard above the crowd chanting “free, free Palestine”.

    After a robust exchange of views between members of the gallery and Mayor Cr Matt Tyler, several attendees walked out.

    After the hub-bub died down, an emotional Cr Antoinette Briffa put forward the newly merged motion, which was passed four votes to two abstentions.

    Those who remained in the back row left after the vote, some visibly wiping away tears.


    The middle-aged woman stood out in the 20-odd-person Wyndham City Council meeting’s public gallery last month. It was her white T-shirt, with a black and red hand-written texta message: “Support Jasmine” across her front, and “Councillors are elected … the CEO is not ” across her back.

    The first thing that came to mind was ‘who the hell is Jasmine?’ But to answer that question, we need to go back to the December 11 Wyndham meeting, when what appears to be a somewhat private spat was made very public.

    Now, we’re not into airing anyone’s private business here at Rates, Roads and Rubbish. But when elected representatives bring private business into the public realm – and it’s in the public interest (i.e. it’s spending ratepayer’s money) – then we have a responsibility.

    Back to Jasmine.

    On December 11, Council received a Councillor Conduct Panel report into “serious misconduct” of Cr Jasmine Hill which was tabled. According to the report, Cr Josh Gilligan accused Cr Hill of “unreasonable behaviour” towards Wyndham staff on 19 occasions throughout 2021 and 2022.

    Cr Hill’s voice shook as she told the December 11 meeting that the panel result was “unjust” and the allegations “untrue”. Cr Hill called for the redacted report’s details to be made public because, she said, she “believed” it was in the public interest.

    “I believe the community has a right to know the details. I am elected by the community, I belong to the community,” she said.

    Even so, the panel suspended Cr Hill from office for four months, starting December 12, 2023. But Cr Hill was there, last month, on February 27, in the council chamber. So what happened?

    According to a Notice of Motion put forward by Cr Gilligan, Cr Hill had appealed the panel’s decision at VCAT, allowing her to resume official duties. The document said Cr Hill had also been indemnified for legal costs at the Councillor Conduct Panel, with council insurance paying the initial $50,000.

    Cr Gilligan was asking for a formal council resolution to authorise the provision of legal council for himself in connection with the VCAT appeal. Crs Gilligan and Hill left the chamber while the decision was being made. Cr Adele Hegedich proposed Cr Gilligan be allocated a similar amount as Cr Hill for legal fees.

    “In the interests of procedural fairness, I believe it is right that the respondent in the VCAT matter … should also be afforded $50,000 in legal fees,” she said.

    In speaking against the motion, Cr Robert Szatkowski said council was not a party in the VCAT appeal.

    “It would be a very bad decision for us financially to be throwing money at a legal case that we’re not a party to, and I’d be disappointed if that’s the direction we went in,” he said. “I hope there is a great deal of public scrutiny around this decision after it’s made.”

    Cr Susan McIntyre said a Local Government reform document was currently out for public consultation, which proposed to change the ability of councillors to access public funds to cover legal indemnity.

    Council rejected the motion two votes to six.

    A Council is only as good as the people who get involved!

    7pm Tuesday 12 March 2024 at the Hobsons Bay Civic Centre.
    The meeting will also be live streamed.

    6.30pm Tuesday 19 March 2024 at Council Chamber, Braybrook Community Hub, 107–139 Churchill Avenue.

    7pm Tuesday 19 March 2024 at Council Chamber, 301 Hampshire Rd, Sunshine West.

    7pm Tuesday 26 March 2024 at Council Chamber, Wyndham Civic Centre, 45 Princes Highway

    By Josie Vine
    RMIT senior journalism lecturer
    We all lead busy lives and don’t get time to attend council meetings or wade through council agendas and minutes. Yet local governments impact our lives more directly than any other and their decisions warrant public scrutiny. Rates, Roads and Rubbish aims to do that for you giving you a fly-on-the- wall account of council discussions and decisions.

    If you have a particular concern with your council contact: marked ATT: Rates, Roads and Rubbish, or call 0411 534 285.

    Josie Vine
    Josie Vine
    A column by Josie Vine, RMIT senior journalism lecturer.

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