Well, it’s that time of year again – out with the old and in with the new. All four of our councils – Hobsons Bay; Maribyrnong, Brimbank and Wyndham – voted in their new Mayor and Deputy Mayor at special meetings last month. This edition, your Rates, Roads and Rubbish has a look at the people who will be leading our councils, and the big issues they’ll be dealing with, over the next 12 months.

    Brimbank – November 2023

    Brimbank City Council made good its threat of controlling public attendance at its meetings last month.

    Members of the public were required to show ID and register their names at the first meeting Cr Ranka Rasic presided over as Brimbank Mayor. 

    Not that council could put on a show for us – the meeting was abandoned after a mere five of the 11 councillors turned up and were unable to form a quorum.

    This is the second time this year that Brimbank has not had enough councillors to form a quorum. The last time was in August.

    Strangely, five of the six councillors who were absent had voted against Cr Rasic’s mayorship the week before – Councillors Victoria Borg, Maria Kerr, Bruch Lancashire, Thomas O’Reilly and Virginia Tachos. Councillor Thuy Dang was also not present but had been among the six that had supported Cr Rasic’s nomination against Cr Tachos.

    The following night, however, Cr Dang attended online, so council was able to conduct its deliberations according to local governance rules.

    The controls on public attendance appeared to work – fewer than 10 people were in the public gallery, including your correspondent and three security guards.

    Several familiar faces were missing. But then again officers had served two regular attendees with official council letters banning them from the previous week’s mayoral election.

    Brimbank Council meetings have been interrupted regularly from unruly behaviour from the gallery. Last month then-Mayor Bruce Lancashire threatened to implement future controls on public participation. 

    Days later council issued a statement from People, Partnerships and Performance Director, Georgie Hill, which said:

    ‘We will be further reviewing arrangements for the next Council meeting and any changes made will be shared with the community when they are finalised.’  

    Councillor Jae Papalia was voted in as Deputy Mayor, six votes to five, against Councillor Victoria Borg. 

    Hobsons Bay – November 2023

    New Mayor Matt Tyler had barely sat down on the Mayoral throne before trouble started over the evictions at Techno Park Drive.

    The Labor-endorsed Cr Tyler was voted in four votes to three over rival Councillor Pamela Sutton-Legaud at the special council meeting last month. He takes over from outgoing Mayor, Councillor Tony Briffa.

    Hobsons Bay Council Chamber was crammed to capacity with dignitaries representing various community committees, former councillors and other invited guests. 

    A heavy mixture of expensive aftershave, powders and perfumes choked the Chambers, to the point where your correspondent started suffering acid reflux.

    As Cr Tyler took centre stage, a lone voice from the assembled crowd cried out: ‘What about the rights of the residents of Techno Park.’

    The speaker, a middle-aged man seated at the front of the crowd, threw a handful of A4 leaflets into the council arena, printed with the words: ‘Briffa Lying to Techno Residents’.

    The Chambers sat in shocked silence. As security guards approached the culprit, the meeting was adjourned and recording cut.

    It took more than 20 minutes to get the gentleman to take his hat and coat and leave the chambers amid dispersed applause from the invited dignitaries.

    When the meeting reconvened, Cr Tyler became teary when he thanked his Mum in his acceptance speech. The last time Cr Tyler became emotional in chambers was in July when he broke down while speaking about the eviction of Techno Park residents. 

    Cr Sutton-Legaud was voted unopposed as Deputy Mayor.

    Maribyrnong – November 2023

    Councillor Cuc Lam’s first meeting as Maribyrnong Mayor voted to support peace in Palestine, including cancelling contracts with companies that support Israeli occupation and flying the Palestinian flag at the Braybrook Community Hub during International Human Rights Day.

    Amid a round of applause, whoops and whistling from a packed gallery, Councillor Jorge Jorquera put forward the motion, saying it was a ‘difficult topic’ to ‘speak to’.

    ‘I do not recall such a politically and ideologically motivated and calculated genocide as that which the Israeli state is now carrying forth in Gaza,’ he said, almost breaking down. ‘This is not a religious conflict, it’s a colonial war.’  

    A chant of ‘free, free Palestine’ erupted from the gallery as Cr Jorquera concluded his address.

    Speaking against the motion, Councillor Michael Clarke said there was ‘absolutely no question’ anyone wanted to see what was happening in Palestine.

    Waiting until cries of ‘shame, shame’ died down from the gallery, Cr Clarke said he got ‘worried’ at the use of the word genocide.

    ‘I don’t think there is any side here that can claim any moral high ground,’ he said amid guffaws from the gallery. ‘You can’t condone murder on any side.’

    At which point Mayor Lam had to ask the gallery to settle down.

    ‘Excuse me your worship, if I can’t have the opportunity to speak I’m happy to move that you remove the gallery,’ Cr Clarke said.

    In speaking against the motion, Councillor Sarah Carter said it was not the place of council to suggest ending diplomatic ties with Israel or to call for sanctions.

    In the end the motion was passed four votes to three, with all Labor-endorsed councillors voting against the motion.

    Cr Jorquera later claimed on Facebook that councillors Anthony Tran, Lam and Clarke had moved to rescind the motion, which will be put forward at the December meeting. 

    Cr Lam was voted in as Maribyrnong Council Mayor at a previous meeting.

    Cr Lam was Mayor in 2017–18 and has been serving on Maribyrnong Council for more than 10 years.

    In a statement, Cr Lam recognised the development of a north-south bicycling corridor as one of the looming issues in Maribyrnong.

    Last month, the chamber was packed with protestors from Summerhill and Rosamond Roads, objecting to a two-year trial of ‘pop-up style’ bicycle infrastructure between Barkly street and Raleigh Road.

    The decision was rescinded, but the issue of future-proofing the main roads connecting Footscray and Maribyrnong remains.

    ‘As we have seen in the past year, some of these conversations may be challenging, resulting in decisions that may not be universally popular,’ Cr Lam said in her statement.

    The Labor-endorsed Cr Lam was up against the Greens-endorsed Councillor Bernadette Thomas, who lost the vote three-to-four. 

    Councillor Michael Clark was elected deputy Mayor, a position previously held by Cr Lam.

    Cr Lam takes over from out-going Mayor, Sarah Carter. 

    Wyndham – November 2023

    When Independent Councillor Jennie Barerra took the mayoral chair last month, she was also taking on the implementation of the controversial Wyndham 2040 Plan.

    Less than three weeks before the Mayoral election, the normally-sedate Wyndham council meeting got a little fiery, when council put its Wyndham 2040 Plan to the vote.

    Even before Councillor Adele Hegedich moved the item then-Mayor Susan McIntyre had to warn gallery members to be quiet or leave.

    ‘Nobody will be accepting this,’ came a voice from the crowd. ‘The residents are not happy about the approval of this being passed tonight.’

    The Wyndham 2040 Plan describes itself as a ‘holistic’ and ‘integrated’ map, preparing infrastructure for an envisioned 500,000 population.

    ‘To think of itself as a city, Wyndham must project itself to the world as a city and aspire to have the things that cities have,’ the Plan says.  

    The Plan’s overall aim is to bring disparate communities such as Tarneit, Point Cook and Manor Lakes into ’20-minute cities’, meaning health, education and other facilities will be within 20 minutes reach, either by walk, ride or public transport.

    But Wyndham Action Group’s Patrizia Barcatta said the Plan would result in turning Wyndham into a location of ‘high-rise living’ and ‘one car park homes’.

    ‘We haven’t been consulted about this,’ she said. ‘The community doesn’t even know what this Plan is, let alone want it.

    ‘There’s been no consultation, and we demand consultation.’

    In speaking against the Plan, Councillor Mia Shaw said it did not make projected costs to ratepayers clear.

    ‘I don’t believe we can afford this,’ she said. 

    There was a round of applause from the gallery when Councillor Heather Marcus called for further consultation. 

    But the Plan was passed unamended nine to two votes. Cr Barerra seconded the Plan’s motion and was among those who voted in favour of its implementation.

    ‘It’s a pivotal document,’ she said. ‘It allows us to reimagine our city, it allows us to slowly but steadily focus our urban development.’

    Cr Barerra was elected Mayor unopposed last month, while Labor-endorsed Councillor Josh Gilligan was elected Deputy Mayor six to five votes against Independent Councillor Sahana Ramesh. 

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

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

    6.30pm Tuesday 12 December at Council Chamber, Braybrook Community Hub, 107–139
    Churchill Avenue.

    7pm Tuesday 12 December at Council Chamber, 301 Hampshire Rd, Sunshine.

    7pm Tuesday 19 December at Council Chamber, Wyndham Civic Centre, 45 Princes Highway.

    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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