Family Fun Day

Come and join the Ardeer and Sunshine West Community and show your support for putting the powerlines underground. Sunday 7th November 1pm, Ardeer Community Park, Forrest St. Click here for more information.


Rally against Westlink

Yesterday around 300 people attended a very successful rally against Westlink . We were treated to some fantastic music, especially "tunnel vision" by Phil Hudson which encapsulated the feelings of everyone at the rally.

We heard from some important speakers about what this road is going to do to our community when it is built.

It will:
  • divide community ;particularly in Sunshine West and in Seddon,
  • prevent residents from being able to walk and cycle in their local area, because a great big 4-6 lane road will go through the middle of it
  • it will leave us with high levels of air and noise pollution.
  • During construction it will cause cracking, noise, dust and destroy the value of surrounding houses.
Building this monstrous road will rip out scarce resources from the ground - and all because the Brumby Government refuses to implement the econmically and environmentally responsible option of improving rail for freight and putting in place fast, frequent and reliable public transport which would take the load off the westgate.

There is no logical argument for this road, other than increased profits for big business using the port. The Brumby government have shown time and time again they are not interested in economics, not interested in the environment and not interested in our communities. They are only interested in supporting increased efficiencies for big businesses moving freight as cheaply as they can off the ships and onto roads to the consumer.

The only way we are going to defeat this road is with large numbers of people getting angry about it and taking our concerns right up to Parliament.


Ardeer Albion Neighbourhood Walk

I joined about 500 local residents from Ardeer and Albion taking part in a walk from Ardeer Community Park to Selwyn Park with the aim of encouraging families and children to be physically active. Wonderful community festivals such as this enable families to get out and get to know their neighbours in a friendly and inclusive environment



Westlink Protest

I joined other protestors against the Westlink road and tunnel outside the electorate office of Telmo Languiller MP.


Brimbank Council sacking - the real reason is to stop opposition to Westlink

It appears the real reason the Brimbank Council has been sacked is so that the Brumby Government can further their agenda to build the Eddington Tunnel and help big businesses get freight from the port easily across Melbourne.

The democratically elected council, including Greens Councillor Geraldine Brooks was elected with 27% of the vote in response to the growing anger at ALP self interest in Brimbank , and now they have been sacked

Meredith Sussex, one of three newly appointed administrators to Brimbank Council has just come from a Directorship at the Department of Transport.

But - It gets better!

Meredith's role was to ensure the implementation of the Eddington Report!

The state Labor government could have sacked Brimbank Council any time in the last 18 months given the level of evidence it had provided by the Ombudsman's report, but it chose not to.

It was trying to leave the problem alone and see if it would die a natural death.

Then, the Greens came along and started raising publicly many of the issues our community were getting upset about like a civic centre to be built on a public park, a dirty big road to be built through homes in West Sunshine and housing developments to be built where there is not enough community facilities and keeping them constantly in the media. All of a sudden Brimbank had to go!

If they think these issues are going to go away, they have a nother think coming. Despite many in our community being told by members of the department of transport that their houses will be safe, they have not ben given information about the route and even if the road was to go through factories instead - we do not want this road! We do not need this road, and our community are not buying it!

Brumby is on record as saying that he intends to implement Eddingtons proposal to construct a tunnel from Clifton Hill ( the start of the eastern freeway) through to the Western Ring Road - and it appears this is exactly what he intends to do - regardless of the communities that will be destroyed by it in the process.

We have to stop him. And the only way we can stop him is by working together.
Brimbank Council Sacked

Brimbank Council was sacked this week by a government apparently desparate to remove Brimbank before the next state election, and it now appears, to try to ensure the success of its hugely unpopular Westlink road project


Cairnlea - more developments

It was brought to my attention before leaving council that Council had made its decision to support the development of this highly contaminated site purely on the basis of certificates and / or statements issued by the auditor.

Council appears to have utterly failed to make its own assessment of the safety of the site by making site visits, asking questions and ordering its own tests to satisfy itself that the remediation work had indeed been carried out.

I have raised this with Council and have received a reply that indeed this was the case that council relied on these documents to make its judgement

I now intend to raise this with the Ombudsman - lets hope that this is investigated thoroughly, because the long term health of countless residents is at stake


Iramoo Design Workshop

Today I attended a design workshop @ Iramoo to help vision the eco living centre that is planned for construction next year...

It was great to get together with other like minded residents in Brimbank and imagine the kinds of activities we could have at Iramoo

Some of the highlights included a cafe, nursery, and back to back programmes to be provided to the school and general communities and for the potential for the house to demonstrate sustainable living in every possible way...


Greens Preselection for Derrimut

I have lodged my nomination for preselection for the lower house seat of Derrimut. The outcome of this should be known by Xmas.

I believe our community deserve to have a decent, hard working candidate that will genuinely represent their interests and their aspirations.

Our community is sick and tired of lazy parliamentarians who do nothing but collect a large income and utterly fail to advocate for the important issues of liveability and safe climate action for our community

I believe candidates should be elected based on their track record, what work they have actually done in our community. and that they represent ordinary people rather than the interests of big business projects such as roads and container parks. I also believe that you cannot possibly represent the community of Derrimut unless you live in the area.

I think our community deserves better and has the right to start demanding its representatives actually work on their behalf!


Community Conversations in Sunshine

It was great to see such a great turn out of local residents to discuss Sunvale and other local issues despite councils very poor effort to promote the event and despite the poor location

Residents continue to raise many of the same issues - they want local facilities and services, the want action on climate change and they do not want developers to make huge profits by getting away with building huge amounts of unsustainable housing that brings an increased density of population with no corresponding increase to support this with adequate facilities and green places


Rally to save Sunvale - from developers!

Sunday's rally saw a great turn up of about 40-50 local residents angry about the lack of genuine consultation, the lack of planning for proper community facilities and the lack of planning for genuine affordable housing instead of just catering to the interests of developers

I have written many times on this blog about the issues at Sunvale and my position has not changed

I do not think more housing on this site is appropriate. Council's own open space strategy identifies a need for more open space in this area and there is also a need for community meeting space and facilities (especially for youth). The community has high levels of disadvantage and this needs to be addressed with an increased level of services and facilities not less!
While council's plan to keep half the space for open space and half for housing is better than nothing, it fails to take into account the serve disadvantage in this area and the wishes of our community. If it had properly consulted with the community, it may have been able to discuss these issues thoroughly and arrived ata compromise...but to date it has failed to do this!

I think urgent and genuine consultation with the sunshine community is critical

I support public housing as the only real solution to the housing affordability crisis, but will this housing be public or just cheap! The last thing we need is large numbers people living in cheap and nasty housing which will entrench their disadvantage. We need to start demanding high quality public housing that you and I would live in.

I also support infill development in places that have good community infrastructure. But who says we have good community infrastructure!!! Our infrastructure is lousy and has been suffering from underinvestment from Labor neglect for at least the last 20 years!
Where is the complete analysis of our housing needs, do we need more buildings to be built or are there houses sitting vacant in Toorak and Brighton that could be public housing and already have good infratructure and green places that would support and increase in density better than Sunshine.
Where and when is Sunshine going to get the infrastructure it needs right now!
While State government policy continues to allow a shifting UGB and a seemingly endless stream of financial support for developers profits at the expense of local communities - we should be sceptical of plans to build new cheap and nasty high density developments


Community Meeting

About 50 people attended a fantastic community meeting in Sunshine Uniting Church Conference Centre

Cr. Rose Iser, President of the Victorian Local Governance Association spoke articulately about the suspension of Council and ways in which the VLGA could offer support to our community.

Bill Scales answered a huge number of very important questions that residents had and there was a critical discussion about how Brimbank has ended up in this situation and the reasons why residents have not got leaders that have the capacity for leadership and governance that we require and are demanding of our respresentatives.

Colleen Hartland MLC chaired this meeting and facilitated a high level of discussion and debate that clearly showed the need for Council to support opportunities for community members to develop leadership and governance skills through community controlled committees of management at local sporting clubs, neighbourhood houses, kindergartens and the like

The community also expressed the need for councils administrators and executive to genuinely consult and engage withour community


Elections NOT an administrator

Ever since last year’s release of the Ombudsman’s report into the City of Brimbank, the State Labor Government has been on notice to do something, and being a political party up for election very shortly it acted.

The Labor councillors who have been acting inappropriately on Brimbank Council deserve to be dismissed; there is no doubt about that.

However, the Minister has the power to dismiss those councillors after proper investigation. He did not have to sack the whole council.

The Local Government Act 1989 – Section 219 says that
(1) The Minister may recommend to the Governor in Council that all the Councillors of a Council be suspended, if the Minister is satisfied on reasonable grounds-

(a) subject to subsection (1A), that there has been a serious failure to provide good government; or

(b) that the Council has acted unlawfully in a serious respect.

Clearly there has been no unlawful act by council so the government is trying to claim that there has been a serious failure to govern.

There has not been a serious failure to govern. There are individual councillors who have been found to have acted improperly and fail to understand their responsibilities.

There is not a majority of councillors that have been found to have conducted themselves improperly or fail to understand their responsibilities.

There may be a larger number of Councillors under investigation (the report fails to name these individuals so we cannot know), but this includes Geraldine Brooks - who is being investigated on trumped up allegations.

There are problems at Brimbank and they are:
1. Councillors who fail to understand their responsibilities and councillors who have used their position for personal or factional gain
2. Councillors who do not act in the community interest- but this does not constitute a failure to govern, it means we need to vote them out at the next election

Instead of sacking those councillors found to have acted improperly the Minister is replacing elected representatives with unaccountable, unrepresentative, Labor administrators and has removed the only Green on Council, someone, who genuinely represents the community interest, and was elected precisely because of these concerns that state Labor are claiming they are dealing with.

An administrator for the next 3 years is not the solution. The Brimbank Community deserve better. They deserve to keep the councillors who were working in their interests and they deserve access to new representatives via election.

Sacking Brimbank Council is less about dealing with the problem and more about drawing attention away from the next state election which will be hard fought for the ALP.

Community Meeting - Sunshine

On 19 August a community meeting was held in Sunshine. The discussion focused on the recommendations arising from the Ombudsman’s report into Brimbank Council. Attendees moved a motion to request Bill Scales (Municipal Inspector) to meet with them and provide an update on all matters relating to Brimbank Council. You are invited to attend……..

When: Monday 26th October
Time: 6:30pm
Where: Uniting Church Conference Centre, 28 Withers St, Sunshine

This meeting will be hosted by: Colleen Hartland, Greens MLC for Western Metropolitan Melbourne, and Geraldine Brooks, sacked Greens Councillor for Brimbank City Council.
Greens Fundraiser

When: Friday 30th October

Where: Polish Hall
6 Helene St, Ardeer

Join us for a great night of fun and good politics greens style. Join with us to help raise funds for the branch to carry out its work and support upcoming election campaigns
Ardeer Community Planting

Ardeer residents once again got together on Saturday to plant in the Ardeer Community Park. Another 400 plants were planted in a great mornings work. The rain held off until the plants were in the ground and we hope they will get enough to get a good soak in the next few days.

We hope to make this a regular monthly event and start a vegie swap where residents can bring their surplus vegies from their garden to share with neighbours
ALGA thinks Scales Report deserves closer scrutiny

The ALGA President Geoff Lake says "The decision this week to sack Brimbank Council is the second time since the Bracks/Brumby government came to power in 1999 that a council in Victoria has been dismissed. Since the release in May of an Ombudsman's report about the conduct of the previous councillor group at Brimbank, there has been widespread criticism of the council. NSW has its Wollongong and now, it seems, Victoria has its Brimbank. Both have become emblematic of what are the most rotten elements associated with government at the local level.

However, this week's report by Municipal Inspector, Bill Scales, recommending that Brimbank now be sacked deserves closer scrutiny. Scales was appointed in the immediate aftermath of the Ombudsman's report and was tasked with monitoring the conduct of the new group of councillors elected last November. The report cites four reasons to justify why the council should be sacked: an attempt by a councillor to have a parking fine reviewed, the leaking of confidential information, councillor conduct and an attempt by an outside organisation to influence councillors. The evidence supporting each reason is surprisingly weak given the severity of the conclusion that the council ought to be sacked and also given Scales' considerable experience (he once headed the Victorian Public Service).

However, it is the inclusion of the fourth and final reason that is the most breathtaking: the undue influence of an external organisation. This refers to a letter sent openly to councillors by a local branch of a political party expressing a view on an issue which is still to be considered by the council. There's nothing at all remarkable with a person or organisation writing to express a view on a council issue. Such representations occur every day in every council across the country. It is what democratic process is all about - the contest of ideas and the lobbying of decision makers. To suggest that this letter amounts to undue influence and a matter for which the council is itself accountable is bizarre and displays one of the most naïve conceptions of the local government environment that I have seen.

Viewed either individually or together, the reasons cited to support sacking the council are glaringly inadequate. There may well be grounds to support sacking the council, but this report does not demonstrate them. If there was a capacity for judicial review of this decision, I have no doubt a court would tear the report to shreds."


Brimbank Council Sacked

The individual Labor councillors who have been acting inappropriately deserve to be sacked, there is no doubt about that.

They have demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of their responsibilities and a disregard for acting in the community interest. Bill Scales highlights a few examples in his report, but there are many that he could have outlined that undoubtedly add up to a whole picture of improper conduct.

That said, I am very concerned that the whole thing is a diversion and not a solution.

I think it is suspicious that the administrator's term will extend beyond the November 2010 state election right through to 2012.

It allows the state government to sweep it all under the carpet and hope that the electorate will forget the corruption and neglect when it comes to the state election next year and the next local election.

Replacing elected representatives with unaccountable, unrepresentative, Labor appointed administrators will not help local democracy and I see a potential conflict of interest in a process where the person who recommends the dismissal of council gets the job of administrator in a process that has no public review.

Sunshine Council has been sacked twice already in recent history and it has done nothing to improve the outlook for our residents.
Sunshine still has the highest rate of unemployment, poor public transport, very high rates of diabetes, obesity and mental illness and our representatives are doing nothing to tackle these concerns.

It is very worrying that the community will now not have access to elected representation for the next 3 years. How is the community going to find out about how the council is spending its money, how are the decisions about a civic centre, Sunvale Primary School and major developments like Metro West going to go ahead without proper scrutiny and transparency? How will the community challenge decisions it disagrees with? How is it going to have a say? Administrators do not have to face election from the people if their decisions are not in their best interests.

Sacking Brimbank Council is more about drawing attention away from the fact that this Labor government has done nothing about dealing with corruption in its ranks, and nothing about the real source of inappropriate behaviour - senior labor figures. Where is the monitoring of their contact with councillors, where is the detailed review of MPs code of conduct? Where is the examination of undue influence of developers on MPs?

Residents are sick and tired of being neglected by their Labor representatives at all levels – not just on council.

Our community finally had someone who genuinely represented their interests (in Miles Dymott and now myself) and now that has been taken away.

In my first 9 months on Council I put forward motions on issues ranging from the budget, meeting transparency measures, abandoning the civic centre project in favour of parks, a commercial gaming venue rate increase, support for a container deposit scheme, condemnation of the urban growth boundary extension, opposed the development assessment committees, opposed the defunding of reconciliation Victoria, support for a net solar feed in tariff , and support for community consultation over a range of important local emerging issues. In most cases the vote in the chamber has been 10 against 1 - I'm the one!
This seems to demonstrate an unwillingness to support anything I put forward on its merits despite it being in the interests of our community. Yet the report utterly fails to report on this.

ALP rules indicate that even councillors who are not endorsed candidates but who are ALP members are required not to vote against ALP policy.

This appears to be in direct conflict with the oath sworn by councillors says they will act impartially and in the best interests of their community.

Greens councillors like me sign a greens councillors code of conduct that specifically directs us to act in the community interest even where it conflicts with greens policy.

I supported the Municipal Inspector and was really glad of the level of scrutiny his presence brought to Brimbank but it appears Labor doesn’t want to fix the problems they just want them to go away. I wish the report had named names and recommended suspending or sacking the named councillors - that would have been a more open process and would have been a sobering message to the remaining councillors. The Minister could have sacked those individual councillors found to have acted improperly.

Bill Scales promised to attend a community meeting in Sunshine on the 26th October that I organised to discuss what he has been doing to oversee the implementation of the Ombudsman's recommendations.

Now more than ever, he needs to honour that agreement and discuss the important concerns that our community has about the transparency and accountability of the new council administration.



Here we go again. The Victorian transport agenda has been hijacked by the road and petroleum (and finance) lobby and actively promotes solutions that are not in the interests of the community despite irrefutable evidence...

The Sunshine community does not want a new truck road through our suburb and have been trying to find out crucial alignment details from the Dept of Infrastructure for many months. Suddenly a tender document appears that calls for a contractor to develop and evaluate a route for not only a dirty great road tunnel under Footscray, which the government did announce, but also a road out the other end, to take extra cars through the inner western suburbs

We also have to realise that the road they are planning is for trucks not cars.

This proposed road will shift the truck problem that currently exists in Yarraville, to a truck problem in Sunshine as trucks are led from the tunnel out through Sunshine and trucks seek alternative routes.

Spending the same money on public transport to move both freight and passengers would remove many more heavy vehicles from our roads than a new road.

If the state government actually spent money to upgrade the existing public transport system properly by making sure there are more trains, greater efficiencies, more buses and connections actually work, they would pull so many cars off the westgate that they wouldn't need to build a new road

We are shortly going to have a massive increase in petroleum prices and are going to have to grapple with peak oil. Now is not the time to invest in more big roads when public transport would clearly do a better job.
Errington ok- what about our other parks

At the last council meeting a vote was taken to remove Errington Reserve from the business case of the proposed new civic centre.

While this is a great outcome for Errington Reserve it is still not great news for all of the other parks and play spaces across the municipality that will lose out to a $30 million municipal office – parks and playgrounds that do not have a voice!

At that meeting I once again moved a motion to abandon the $30 million dollar council civic centre project, with the money to instead be spent on the improvement of parks and community facilities. Once again this was not supported by Council.

Our community needs family focussed parkland and recreational spaces for all ages. Time and again residents have made it clear they place a high priority on this.

At all the consultations around the community plan, not once did the community say they wanted a new office. The priority has always been parks and local community facilities, an arts and cultural facility, and improvements to our environment NOT a municipal office

It is clear to me from the presentations made to Council and from widespread discussions on this issue, the community does not want a civic centre on Errington Reserve. The community have also been clear in saying they don’t know if we need one at all!

The business case for a new municipal office is going ahead at significant cost to ratepayers in consultants fees but the project still doesn’t stack up. How has a civic centre taken priority over parks and other projects?


Bob Brown Comes to VU

It is the first time I have heard Bob speak (live) and it was very inspiring.

He spoke about the politics of the CPRS and about the role of corporations in setting the political agenda. How Labor and Liberal have so completely sold out to the big polluters and the big end of town.

It is so important in our world of dry, passionless mouthpieces that we have people like Bob who are passionate, caring and well informed and who are prepared to take up the struggle against the giant multinational companies who are destroying our planet.

Bob (like most Greens I think) is an optimist who believes that humanity has the capability to organise society in a way that will be sustainable and for the benefit of all before we destroy the planet.

There were some great questions from the audience and as ever Bob was so humble and generous with his time.


MP representations

One of the Ombudsman's recommendations to Brimbank Council was to develop a method of recording representations made to councillors by MP's....what about the representations made by developers and real estate agents?
Councillor information requests

Council meetings now document the requests for information made by a councillor. This does not include meetings organised by staff but rather information requested by councillors in the carrying out of their role.
Sunvale deception

I am very concerned that Council's postcard campaign is a deception.

Members of our community have been signing the Sunvale petition that Council has been promoting because they thought what they were signing was a call for "community use".

Community use to most people means parks and community facilities...not a sell off to developers!

We need to immediately call on council to change its position and demand that the land remain 100% in public hands for open space and community facilities


Albion Explosives Factory Fallout

Cairnlea business park coming soon - is what the sign says on Ballarat Rd. This is a new sign put on a site that is currently zoned Commonwealth Land!

If VicUrban haven't even got planning permission, why are they so sure that a business park is coming soon?

This site is still contaminated land according to the Department of Defence. Apparently it is one that has not been cleaned up and yet the site is not properly fenced off to the public and there are houses within a stones throw. What happens to the kids who experiment with wandering onto the site?

Secondly, who is going to pay for the clean up?


Road Threatens Homes

The state government have today called for tenders for a new road to link the Maribyrnong Tunnel with the Western Ring Road. While they have refused to say what the preferred alignment is, it is clear they have one and it is clear it will head down Sunshine Road and Wright St. It is also clear that this is an enormous road that is several lanes wide on each side and will take up a huge amount of land that currently has homes on it.

This disastrous road was planned as part of the Eddington Tunnel and now the Victorian Transport Plan and will destroy quiet West Sunshine, quite possibly destroy parts of Buckingham reserve and consume massive amounts of fossil fuels in its production. It will also shift the truck problem from Yarraville to Sunshine.

The Brimbank Transport Action Group together with other concerned residents including the Greens, will campaign to stop this road.

If you would like to help in this campaign, please call Debbi Woods on 04389185
Rooming House Campaign

Council has moved to support this very important Victorian Local Governance Assoc Rooming House campaign.

It was apparent that there is much we can do to improve the way we respond to unsafe rooming houses and to make the unscrupulous owners more accountable as both an individual council and as a sector

At a council level officers at Brimbank have been quick to recognise that we need an integrated response that involves all the relevant areas of council including:
Building services
City compliance
Environmental health
housing support services
community health services
Fire services
And the homeless persons programme

As a sector there is a need to lobby for:
Increased registration and policing of rooming houses
Encourage the reporting of unregistered rooming houses
Licensing of the RH operators
Increased penalties for unlicensed premises
And to encourage 3rd party complaints against these operators

It became clear to me though that this is also an important campaign not only because it highlights the plight of the most marginalised in our community who are stuck in unsafe rooming houses, but because the issue cannot be divorced from the issue of access to affordable housing more generally

The discussion at the VLGA highlighted that unsafe rooming houses are a failure of the private housing market to deliver affordable housing. This is not a new issue or a cyclical problem. This is a problem of capitalism. It is a problem of the private housing market. When times are good for the housing industry and they are building houses hand over fist, the supply increases and the problem is not so acute, but when the market dries up the few who drop off the edge become a large number indeed. And it has nothing to do with the actual number of houses built, but everything to do with the fact that people on low incomes cannot access the houses

So rather than an aberration, it is actually a function of the private market

We have been told by the state gvt that there is a massive housing shortage and this is used to justify the massive roll out of housing construction

Is there really a shortage or is this a move to prop up a struggling industry and their profits

Forgive me for being cynical but I have just discovered that ABS data shows there is in fact more than enough vacant dwellings in victoria to house the entire Victorian population

I repeat, there is enough dwellings to house the entire Victorian population

At the heart of the problem lies the fact that housing is not built to match actual need Instead we have system that is just trying to produce as many houses as it can for profit. The irony is that Many of these properties are actually being paid for by the tax payer thru negative but we never own them

Even if we plough ahead and build all these new houses and destroy huge tracts of grasslands. Guess what we will still have a rooming house problem, and we will still have poor people who cant afford housing, we will still have homeless people

If we are serious about addressing this issue we need to look at providing housing differently. We need to increase the public ownership of housing and we need to be able to match up vacant houses with families. We can only do that if we own it
Errington Reserve - good news!

At last night's council meeting, we heard feedback from the recent community forums that Council conducted as a PR exercise to convince the community of the business case for a new municipal office. Consultants Capire and market researcher Nexus Research presented feedback from the forums and from telephone interviews conducted over the last few weeks. It was clear from these consultations that the community does not want a municipal office on Errington Reserve and that the community questions the priority of a civic centre above other community projects such as parks, and local community facilities.

Again, I put forward an alternative recommendation to abandon the civic centre proposal

While this was not supported, an amended recommendation (put by Cr Stuart Miller) that Errington Reserve be removed from the draft business case and that Council reaffirm pubic open space as per the wishes of the late Alice Errington was supported - Hooray for common sense! is launched!
Yes, after four solid months of blogging I've opened up this blog to the wonderful world wide web.

I've found it to be a very simple and immediate way to communicate to the community my motivations and interpretations of what Council is, and could be, achieving. And I'm serious about finding new ways to engage our residents with Council activities and decision-making. I sincerely hope this blog contributes to rescuing the political process in Brimbank.

I'm feeling absolutely inspired after last week's community meeting regarding the Ombudsman Victoria report. And I'll endeavour to keep up this alternative public record for anyone looking for an alternative perspective on what's important to Brimbank.


Please note my motions put to the Chamber can be found here:
and media releases here:
Sunvale PS - a small victory
Council voted last night to support part of my motion for the immediate consultation with the Sunshine Community!

Council has recently decided it will work with the Sunshine community via a new online petition and the post card campaign and I am very concerned that this campaign is not genuine.

While the petition and postcards are calling for Sunvale to be kept for community use, Council's position has not altered. Council's position remains that it supports affordable/social housing and 0.8 hectare for open space. While genuine affordable housing (ie public housing) might be important for our commuity, 'affordable housing' usually means a sell off to developers for cheap and nasty housing.

I think my definition of 'community use' is probably like most people's . When I think of community use I think of parks, playgrounds and community facilities.... I don't think of a sell off to developers.

The Sunshine community deserves to have a say on what it wants for this site. When the issue first arose, the community was promised discussion and consultation and yet Council have yet to ask our community what they want for Sunvale.

In light of this Council campaign, I again put forward a motion that Council resolves to:
1. advocate for the Sunvale PS site to remain 100% in public hands
2. begin immediate consultation with the Sunshine community about the its wishes for the development for the site

And Council voted last night to support the immediate consultation with the Sunshine Community
While they would not support the call to keep the site 100% in public hands, I have no doubt that this is what the Sunshine community will call for during the consultation.

At last, Council is prepared to listen to the views of the community! Lets hope they keep listening...


Community meeting at Sunshine Masonic Hall: well attended and children-friendly (above)

Community Meeting
In recent months, Brimbank City Council has been rocked by allegations of misconduct. Following the release of the Ombudsman's Report into alleged misconduct, I put forward a motion that Council conduct a community meeting to allow the community to have full and proper discussion of the issues. Not one Councillor would support that motion. Because of this I went ahead with local Greens and organised a public meeting on Wednesday19th August in Sunshine.

About 50 people turned out to a very successful community meeting. It was an opportunity for the community to discuss the key points of the report, and freely raise concerns over issues such as Sunvale PS, Parsons Reserve, the Civic Centre proposal, affordable housing, lack of public open space funding and inappropriate development.

The meeting resolved to pass a couple of motions. One was a request to Bill Scales to attend a community meeting in the next 6 weeks to update the community on his progress. Further the community requested Mr Scales to provide Council with a monthly update of his progress. We await his answer.

The meeting was well attended and there were so many valuable contributions. Hopefully this signals the start of our community becoming more organised and inspired to take up the struggle for a better Sunshine!

Former Greens Brimbank Councillor, Miles Dymott addressing the meeting (below)


more trees please!

Council has just recommended that the street tree infill programme be continued for another 3 years.

This is a very important programme that has a high level of community support. Nevertheless it is important that council does more work with community members to help them take ownership of the new trees to ensure their survival.

While the contractor is responsible for trees that fail, community members in some areas are working with council to adopt a tree and are helping exisiting and new trees by providing some extra watering.

There are also a number of species that can be negotiated in this programme. So if you would like to see some more species variety, let Council know of your preference.
Retrofitting the West
Council is participating in a fantastic initiative led by the City of Maribyrnong to supply, and install a suite of residential retrofit services to maximise state and fed rebates currently available eg. solar hot water, free energy/waste/water assessments/green loans info/insulation etc

Aboriginal Artefacts in Brimbank
After many months of trying to get Council to facilitate contact with Aboriginal Affairs to acknowledge a local resident (in my ward) who has discovered aboriginal stone tools along our local section of creek, Aboriginal Affairs are finally coming to Brimbank to take a look next week!

Community meeting
I have called a community meeting for this Wednesday night with our local Greens branch to discuss the Ombudsman’s report and other local emerging issues in Brimbank. This will be the first time the community has had a chance to discuss these important issues in a public forum like this.

Sunvale PS site
This is a complex issue that on the face of it looks like it supports increased housing development in an area that is close to a train station etc and would be in line with Greens policy. I have opposed the Council’s position on this development because on closer inspection it is simply supporting a sell off of the primary school site to developers. There has been no consultation with the Sunshine community over the development of this site but the community have been continually asking for it. When community members became aware of the possible sale, SUNRAA wrote on their behalf to both the Minister and Brimbank Council CEO Nick Foa to outline what they thought the site should be used for. When Council conducted the ‘Creating Better Parks’ community consultations the participants were unequivocal about the need for more open space and community meeting facilities.
Now that Council has decided it will work with the Sunshine community to advocate to the State Government to keep the Sunvale site for community use, I believe we need to ensure that Council’s desire for a partnership is genuine.
We will not be successful in this campaign if we cannot work together and genuinely listen to the needs of our community. When community members became aware of the possible sale, they were led to believe a separate discussion on the development of the site would take place. This has not happened.
Nevertheless when Council conducted the 'Creating Better Parks' community consultations the community said loud and clear that it needs more open space and community meeting facilities
They did not say they wanted a sell off to developers.
Even though councils current position says its preferred option is 0.8 of a hectare retained for public open space, it also says it is open to negotiation and it does not stress the importance of us getting a better deal because of severe disadvantage
It also concerns me that the report is saying we advocate for affordable housing without specifying what that is.
We all know that affordable housing/social housing can mean a multitude of things – none of which have been properly discussed with our community. It can mean a sell off to developers who are going to build what they can most cheaply to maximise their profit. It can mean social housing with tenants that are in supported accommodation. It can mean public housing and it can mean housing that is owned by welfare groups.
The only genuine affordable housing is public housing. But again if this is what we want there needs to be proper consultation - because we all know it has been done very badly in the past .
And if it was going to be public housing, it has to be a project of high quality, attractive, environmentally sensitive houses that you and I would like to live in and that ensures a mix of people live there.
If we push this through as it is we will be missing an opportunity to work with our community and together lobby the state government for a fantastic opportunity to have a great community asset Ecoliving centre support Council recently voted to support the construction of a CERES of the west by VU on council land (for a peppercorn rent).

Watergardens Priority Development Panel (PDP)
Recently Minister Madden has given the building approval process back to Council! We can only hope he is feeling the pressure from community groups all over Victoria...and there will be more of this happening in the immediate future. This step has meant that Council has been able to renegotiate a land deal for community hub/youth space and because of this we look like getting a much better position for the space.
Unfortunately prior to this, the PDP has worked hard to push Council to support increased retail floor space for this gross and unsustainable development. At the last meeting of Council we adopted a recommendation to accept that increase in the retail floor space at Watergardens Shopping Centre. The increase is something the developer, QIC, have been wanting badly as it has enabled them to secure a Myer department store.
While it might sound great to shoppers to have a new Myer in the area, developments like these are not good for local jobs or for the sustainability (walk-ability or liveability) of a neighbourhood. They mean that the shopping centre is 'inward looking' (i.e. an inside development that you have to drive to) rather than being a real town centre that interacts with the local neighbourhood and provides truly local services.
The Sunshine community is very well aware of what happened to its vibrant shopping strip in Hampshire Rd when Council allowed the development of the 2 monstrous shopping centres to be built along the edge of the precinct - and we are now faced with more of the same poor development decisions at Watergardens.


Lakes Reserve opening

I attended the opening of the beautiful lakeside playground created as one of the regional parks in Brimbank.

Even though the day was blustery, many families turned out to enjoy the BBQ, music and to explore the fantastic new imaginative playspace.


Housing shortage a myth
Councillors participated in a very wide ranging discussion that quite clearly explained that it is a failure of the private market to deliver affordable housing. This is not a new issue, nor is it a cyclical problem. This is a problem of the private market and always has been. There has been growth in rooming houses because of an increase in the sub-residency model and illegal building works.

Some of the key issues covered included:
The need for registration and policing of rooming houses
Unregistered rooming houses
Fire safety issues
The coordination of council departments in the policing of registered and unregistered premises
- Need for the licensing of rooming house operators
- Need for an increase in the penalities for unlicensed premises
- Need for third party complaints against operators
- Need for the government to use their own data.

ABS data shows that there is currently enough vacant housing to house all Victorians but policies such as capital gains tax and negative gearing act to encourage landlords to sit on vacant properties

Climate change and social justice – what does this mean?
The VLGA has decided that its response to the State Government's Climate Change Green Paper* will essentially be framed in terms of the impact of climate change and strategies to address climate change on equity and health.

There are many ways climate change will affect the community disproportionately and this is directly linked to capitalism. Until such time as we deal with this structural inequality we will not be able to share the shrinking resources equitably and fairly. We do not have a society that distributes wealth or health equitably.

There is an urgent need for local governments to start addressing this inequality. And when it comes to climate change there are many worrying examples of how those on low incomes are going to be affected far more greatly by climate change impacts than those who are well off.

For example, many people are probably not aware that more people were killed in the heatwave leading up to Black Saturday than in Black Saturday itself.

Another example is that we will soon have to pay more for water because of the desalination plant. Those on low incomes will find these increased costs the most difficult to absorb and will certainly be in a much more difficult position compared to those on higher incomes who have already been able to afford to install water tanks and water efficient appliances. A more equitable response would be to support households to achieve water independence through water tanks, storm water harvester and cheap water saving measures

Those on low incomes and those who are older or with disabilities will also find the extreme heat more difficult. While those on higher incomes can afford passive solar design for their houses, insulation, weather sealing, cooling units and holidays to cooler parts of the world, while those on low incomes cannot.

Other examples of vulnerability to climate change include: the higher price of foodstuffs due to changing climate, aging, access to services, and rising prices for energy use and petrol to run cars.

Councils are in the unique position being closest to the people and we can deliver or lobby for projects that will reorient services and supports to those most disadvantaged. We can tax big businesses (this is constrained in local government) to offset service provision to those most vulnerable instead of allowing the gap to widen.

* A 'green paper' is draft policy document and discussion paper, usually provided for public comment


Green Wedges
The State Government released plans last week, which show a draft expanded Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) around new growth areas. These plans pose the most serious threat to the green wedges since the Bracks Government introduced an UGB to protect them in 2002 and possibly since the green wedges were introduced by the Hamer Government in 1971.

The green wedges are, as successive premiers and planning ministers have said, the lungs of Melbourne. "They safeguard agricultural uses and preserve rural and scenic landscapes, non-renewable resources and natural areas including water catchments" (DPCD website). With a city already gasping for breath, Melbourne's lungs are about to be choked with urban sprawl. This government land grab will be a cancer, not just in the proposed new growth corridors but in surrounding areas, where developers are expected to buy up environmentally and agriculturally significant grasslands.

Once known as brown wedges, the work of ecologists has shown that the biodiversity of our western plains grasslands rivals Kakadu. Native grasslands, Victoria’s prairies, once stretched from the western edge of Melbourne nearly to the South Australian border, but now only a tiny percentage remains. They were ablaze with wildflowers in spring and supported many different species of marsupials and reptiles including Striped Legless Lizard and Fat-tailed Dunnart. The Werribee and Melton Plains support the largest remaining areas of Victoria’s Basalt Plains Grasslands and are one of Australia’s 15 Biodiversity Hotspots.

Grassland remnants are scattered across the plains, with the largest continuous area extending westwards from Werribee nearly to the YouYangs, and a substantial block are also located on the eastern slopes of Mt Cotterell. However many of the high quality remnants lie scattered close to or within the urban areas of Werribee, Laverton, Deer Park and Caroline Springs.

The proposed extensions to the western growth corridors will potentially destroy over 3000 ha of the environmentally significant grasslands. This destruction is unnecessary as an analysis by Jenni Bundy of the Green Wedge Protection Group demonstrates that the Government has miscalculated its land supply figures and that there is enough land within the current UGB to last until 2030. Increasing the development density in urban growth areas would also make housing more affordable. Instead, the Government is prepared to hand green wedge land that makes Melbourne a liveable city to developers for McMansions and suburban sprawl and the destruction of our precious remnant grasslands

We need to call on the government to call off this plan for gross unnecessary destruction of the environment.
Gambling in Brimbank Reaches All Time High
Here is more reason for councillors to have supported the motion on pokies that I put to the chamber in February 2009 to increase the differential rate on commercial gaming venues in Brimbank.

It has been revealed that Brimbank has hit number one in poker machine losses to the state and the misery and tragedy are enormous and increasing.

Gaming is a significant community problem now in Brimbank and affects the entire community, not just problem gamblers. As we all know Gambling related problems are mainly associated with Electronic Gaming Machines (better known as pokies). According to our Council 2006 Policy, Brimbank is ranked third on the SEIFA scale of disadvantage in Victoria (click here to view Policy). And despite a low density rank of 7.3 pokies per 1000 adults, gaming losses are significantly higher than areas with higher machine densities and are now the most severe of any municipality in the state with $58 million spent on its 953 poker machines in the first five months of the 2008-09 financial year.

Council's Gambling Policy Statement and Gambling Action Plan 2006-2009 recognises that while gambling is a legitimate form of leisure and entertainment, it is also can have terrible consequences for people, their families and the broader community. The Policy seeks to integrate this policy position into all key plans and strategies.

A differential rate levied on commercial gaming venues would be one method of integrating Council’s policy position into our strategies, making it less attractive for venues to profit from pokies in our municipality.

Moreland City Council has recently introduced such a rate (click here to see what they've achieved). And I had hoped to see overwhelming support behind this idea here in Brimbank. Unfortunately it was not supported and Council instead moved to seek a briefing from officers on
the possibility of a differential rate for commercial gaming properties and
the possibility of the rate being levied at twice the commercial industrial rate.

But I must say I'm getting tired of my fellow councillors deferring for yet another briefing, instead of informing themselves on such critical issues prior to council meetings. Time and again they have effectively deferred the No Vote until a later date, allowing a public decision to be removed from its currency and context.

See recent story in The Brimbank Leader, 'Brimbank pokies raining millions' 04/08/2009

Perhaps for the sake of contrasting it to the responsible and responsive leadership that Moreland City Council have demonstrated
'Pokies tax plan for Moreland', Moreland Leader 18/05/2009

The motion on pokies that I put to the chamber in February 2009 sadly did not yield a seconder.


Click on picture to enlarge view

Sunvale Primary School Site - future development
All of a sudden postcards have appeared on the Council internet home page ( and now an online petition! (see screen shot above)
If Council wishes to support the community on this issue, that is great, however it needs to learn to how to consult its community properly. Council launches into such a campaign and has yet to notify councillors of the design, rationale or evaluative processes. Where did this overnight campaign come from? What should the signatories of the online petition expect from signing on?

Council, the organisation, is clearly unable to see the need to build community trust, nor invite open consultation with the community. I want to see every community consultation from Council be an active-listening and trust-building exercise. It's the least we need to build good governance and good community outcomes, and attract the most active and community-minded people to contribute (to join and balance out the valuable contributions of the loud, angry ones).

I will again put forward a motion I have put forward previously calling for immediate consultation with the Sunshine community on this issue so that Council can form a genuine partnership in its approach to this campaign.

We will not be successful in this campaign if we cannot work together and genuinely listen to the needs of our community.


Local area forum - Sunshine
I attended the Local area forum discussions at West Sunshine Community Centre, which was the chance for community members to discuss progress on the Community Plan.

Some of the areas covered include:
· Local Area Plan, from Brimbank Community Plan
· Sunvale Primary School site future use
· Brimbank Planning Scheme amendment
· Sunshine Station rebuild
· West Sunshine Community Centre Redevelopment
· 150th celebrations
Unfortunately the Forum did not cover the issue of the urgently needed facilities review and fees for community meeting space!


Meeting Procedure Local Law - rescission motion defeated
Unfortunately my rescission motion was defeated last night. This now means that every motion I put forward has to have a seconder when I lodge it with the CEO!

I lodged this rescission motion, because I believe these changes are grossly undemocratic.
And I was hopeful that at least some councillors would show enough respect for democracy and the community that elected me and agree to throw out this undemocratic move.

With the whole of Victoria watching Brimbank and the conduct of Brimbank Councillors, we need to demonstrate that we are a democratic Council making transparent and accountable decisions.

Motions may fail in the chamber but at least Councillors should have the right to raise the issues and debate them. Under this law that will be so much harder.

No other Council I am aware of has a local law that requires a notice of motion to be seconded on lodgement. The sole motivation for this amendment must be to prevent the minority voice from being heard at Brimbank and I have to ask why would you want to do that…who is trying to gag me?

The minority I might be, but what I have to say is no less important - and the truth often rests with the minority

I believe this move is an obvious attempt to stifle independent opinions and silence debate the only non-Labor councillor, it is clear that this is aimed at preventing me from moving any motions and raising issues in the community interest.

Councillors are meant to act in the community interest. Unfortunately it seems that some other councillors are more interested in silencing community issues. Have they not learnt anything from the Ombudsman’s report?

Click here to see the rescission motion I put to the chamber and my speaking notes


Alternative Community Council meeting
I congratulate the residents and ratepayers who organised the alternative meeting. It was a resounding success, with many decisions made in the interests of the community!
Container Deposits
I lodged a new notice of motion for Council to support a National Scheme as legislation is currently being debated at the federal level.

With community members telling me they have great concerns about the amounts of litter in our streets and water ways, this is a very practical solution that turns litter into community money and litter bugs into recyclers. Click here to see the motion and my address to the chamber.

Unfortunately Council voted to defer this motion until the Ordinary Council meeting in August. Watch this space for more container deposit discussion!


Community planting at Ardeer Park
Over 20 people again turned out to help plant the new indigenous flower garden. Thankfully a few spots of rain are keeping the plants alive!


Sunshine gets down and gets groovy!

I attended a CD launch at wonderful local business – SunYoga ( )
It was a wonderful chance to get out and enjoy a night with friends - locally.
We were treated to beautiful live performance from the Legless Lizards, a guided relaxation and wonderful company.


UGB extension – do we already have this?
The analysis and assessment of implications of these proposals by the State Government are missing everywhere in the phone-book sized gloss - it's hard to know whether any other planning options were even considered.
The manner in which the State Government has facilitated public comment for these four proposals is also telling. It is strikingly similar to previous consultations on transport plans and UGB expansions that the State has received and then ignored- this great cause for concern. Why are they asking again and again as if it is not already very clear that the UGB needs to be permanently fixed, and public funds and energy be channelled to address our current problems.

At the last Planning Committee Meeting on Tuesday 14th July, Council decided to make a submission to the State Government on its recently released report euphemistically called 'Delivering Melbourne’s Newest Sustainable Communities'.
I'd like to see this Council take a position within its submission that it does not believe that the UGB expansion is needed nor warranted. Unfortunately it has taken a very watered down position.

I spoke about this at the meeting. click here to see the motion I put to the chamber and my speaking notes.
Ardeer Neighbourhood Watch

I attended my local neighbourhood watch meeting tonight. The meeting came up with a very creative solution to a problem residents have been having with illegal drinking.

The Committee have asked that I speak to Council and the Ardeer Soccer Club to determine the possibility/practicalities of the local community being able to meet in the social rooms of the club after hours. This would provide a win:win solution for the community, the Club and Council. Community members currently meet outside the local shops and would like a warmer place to socialise – and a legal one! The Club would have increased drink sales and local people to keep an eye on the building and grounds. And contribute to Council's wish to see more mixed use in our sporting facilities as well as reduce illegal drinking on our streets. Lets hope we can get it to work!


Civic Centre Debacle
Council has reacted to the community backlash about this issue by holding a series of 4 sessions over the next few weeks. At the first of the PR sessions organised by Council to sell the business case for a new civic centre, the community told Council in no uncertain terms that they do not want it built on Errington Reserve.

My postion continues to be that we should not be building a new civic building until such time as we have implemented our Creating Better Parks Strategy.

While I am not opposed to Council taking out a loan, I think it should be spent on funding the upgrade of our parks across the municipality over the next 4 years and the same with the cycling and walking strategy.

These are urgent as far as our community priorities go and now more than ever. We need to create local jobs that provide sustainable outcomes for our community.

If we were ready to build a new centre, and I certainly agree we need an arts and cultural complex, then using the project to activate a civic precinct is a great idea. But we need parks first and Errington Reserve should not be an option!


Sunshine Principal Activity Centre - Draft Plan
Council has approved the draft plan for Sunshine Principal Activity Centre and will now go through a process of community consultation and discussion until the end of the year.

The Plan is important for a future Sunshine Activity Centre that is a true “town centre” and seeks to rezone areas in line with land uses the community have identified that will make Sunshine a better place to live and work.

In particular it will be exciting to see the future redevelopment of the Albion Triangle and associated rehabilitation of Stony Creek.


Harmony Train gathers steam at St Albans
There was a great turn out for this important day. Residents gathered in the Square opposite St Albans Station to enjoy performances from local musicians and express their support for our community which comes from a diverse range of backgrounds.

50th Anniversary for Sunshine Football Club
Congratulations to Sunshine Football Club for achieving their 50th anniversary. The Club has a proud history of supporting families through tough times and fostering a healthy, caring environment for young people.

Conflict of interest
As a new councillor elected at the last election, it has taken some time for me to process the full effect of the difficulties associated with the new Conflict of Interest provisions.

Overall, I welcome the new provisions because they are clearly intended to prevent Councillors from making personal gain from their role as a councillor and providing a clear set of guidelines about what is a conflict. The new rules are important to help ensure councillors’ act in a transparent way at all times about any associations they have with developers, real estate and other interests that could mean they profit from a particular council decision or have a bias when it comes to making a decision about an issue on a particular development. The guidelines also protect councillors by ensuring that in general they do not accept gifts that could later be used by a group or company to influence a decision about an issue.

I am concerned though that like many dedicated country Councillors I was elected because of my connections to my community and those connections are not about developers or real estate. My involvement is with many community not-for-profit groups working to improve their local area and support their neighbours. Because of my continued involvement as an active local person on my school council, breastfeeding group, playground group etc, those groups have suffered from my association, and are not being able to apply for grants because of a perceived conflict of interest. I believe there is also potential for conflicts to arise on making decisions about issues that might be remotely associated with these groups and that is not necessarily fair.
Notice: Local Area Forum - Sunshine
Remember to come along and have your say on local Sunshine issues and hear about the progress of the community plan.
All Welcome.
30th July at 7pm
Glengala Community Centre.


Park one step closer

I enjoyed hearing about the revised plans for Tom O’Brien Park/Matthews Hill Reserve. Officers have really listened to the community and it shows in the new design which has a thoughtful use of space and creative solutions to the multiple uses this park has.


Container Deposits Scheme (and Legislation)
I've just received news from Colleen Hartland MLC's office Queenscliffe Borough passed a motion in support of drink container deposits. Northerh Grampians Shire also resolved to offer in principle support to container deposits.

Unfortunately Brimbank is at the back of the class for voting against. Please see here to view the motion and a brief comment on how it fared in the council chamber.

Nationally Greens Senator Scott Ludlam's container deposit legislation is in the process of gathering submissions for a Senate inquiry (submissions are due 23 July 2009).


Community planting at Selwyn Park
In addition to restoring locally indigenous plans to the escarpment and restoring the remnant grasslands, volunteers were treated to an archaeological tour with local Robert Jackson. Robert talked to us about the important Aboriginal History of the area and pointed out some significant stone tool artefacts.


Council not interested in discussing Ombudsman's Report with Community
At the Budget meeting on Tuesday night (23/06/2009) not one councillor would second the Greens motion for Council to hold a community meeting to discuss the key points arising from the Ombudsman Victoria Investigation into the alleged improper conduct of councillors at Brimbank City Council.
The meeting on the 18th June enabled Council to demonstrate what it is doing to meet the recommendations of the report. It did not allow opportunity for the community to discuss how it hoped to to regain confidence in the democratic process. So I will go ahead and organise a community meeting to ensure our community's voice is heard on these matters.


10c deposit win in Victorian Upper House
In an historic win, Western suburbs MP Colleen Hartland's private member's bill for a 10c deposit on drink bottles, cans and cartons in Victoria has passed in the State Upper House on 24th June 2009.

The State Government quickly moved to blocked debate in the lower house, on a legal technicality.

Colleen Hartland Greens MLC warned "This campaign came from the community. It remains a community supported campaign. 94% of Victorians support a container deposit system, and now the Legislative Council of Victorian Parliament also supports it."

"The government should understand how damaging it is to them to oppose a move which is supported throughout the community."


Council passes budget that will destroy Errington Reserve
Council moved tonight to pass a budget that commits our community to a $30M edifice to Councillors and officers. I proposed a forward thinking alternative to scrap the civic centre proposal and scrap the $1M proposed for the duplication of Hume Drive. Unfortunately the chambers fell silent for the motion to be left without a seconder.

Please see find my budget speech at


Meeting Procedure Local Law

One of the suite of documents drafted to showcase how Council has changed includes a review of the Brimbank Local Meeting Law. As it turns out one of the key changes is grossly undemocratic.

In an obvious attempt to stifle independent opinions and debate, the 10 Labor councillors voted to require a second councillor's signature before any motion can be moved. Whilst the other ten councillors remain a bloc of sorts, this effectively means my motions remain unheard in the chamber unless I receive their consent.

As the only non-Labor councillor, it is clear that this is change to meeting procedure is aimed at preventing me from moving any motions and raising issues that I, as an elected representative, believe is in the community's interest.

With the whole of Victoria watching Brimbank and the conduct of Brimbank Councillors, we need to demonstrate that we are a democratic Council making transparent and accountable decisions.

I would be very interested to know Bill Scales' view on this.


Community Planting at McKay Gardens
About 15 volunteers turned out in the icy cold to plant, and clean up sections of the McKay Gardens.

The Council's conservation team put on a program of community plantings annually. It's a great way to learn about and explore Brimbank's biodiversity significant sites and meet other locals.


Special Meeting: Ombudsman Victoria report recommendations

Seven items were tabled, relating to recommendations in the Ombudsman Victoria report into "the alleged improper conduct of councillors". The items specifically related to matters such as declarations of gifts, access to (Council) information, councillor conduct (behaviour), and meeting procedure.

Each was forced through the agenda, as the old guard of new (and some not-so-new) Labor-aligned councillors read in turn their carbon copy statements about 'unity-of-the-future' and the 'somewhat unfortunate' past.

The TV media were there, the local papers, Council's entire Media team, and Liberal MPs David Davies and Jeanette Powell amongst others. Some councillors were so bold as to declare, hand-on-heart, that none of the present councillors are Labor-aligned. (A partial admission that Brimbank Labor is on the nose for good reason.) Presumably 20-odd years of stacking and factional shuffling had folded with the previous council, the memory of their own recent (and now documented) deals for upcoming mayoralty conveniently forgotten.

I put forward a motion that motions (including recission motions) should not to need to be seconded in order to be brought to the chamber. If this were the case back when the Sunshine Pool was being used as a political football, we would not have a Sunshine Leisure Centre to speak of today.

I also proposed that motions put to the chamber that are not seconded also be recorded in the minutes. To which Cr Guidice and the Mayor Cr Atanasovski replied such unseconded motions need no air time in the chamber as it would cause embarrassment to the Council. I can only take this to mean that any view that is not consistent with theirs ruling faction is an embarassment. How soon they forget that those 27% of Harvester who had hoped that I would champion their interests in the chamber deserve also to be represented.

It's very easy to be drawn into the cynicism (about community participation, about party politics and the like) but we really needn't be. Brimbank is bigger than the Labor Party. And change in the Brimbank political landscape is occuring, whether they're paying attention or not.


Refugee Week in Brimbank
Sun 14th June - Sat 20th June 2009
Council celebrated Refugee Week with a lunch in Sunshine and lots of useful information from council officers about services for newly arrived families.

Unleashing Melbourne's sprawl - Brumby-style
Plans to contain Melbourne’s urban sprawl are effectively stone dead and the city’s cherished green wedge zones are in danger. I learnt that Planning Minister Justin Madden had plans to seize control of sections of suburban Melbourne and Geelong to speed up development. The Minister's intentions were exposed in Parliament when a key piece of his planning legislation was defeated last week.

RMIT Associate Professor Michael Buxton, a prominent urban planner who has worked closely with the State Government on the 'Melbourne 2030 Plan' (October 2001) has slammed Premier Brumby’s plan to expand 23,000 hectares into the green wedges. Strangely, Premier Brumby said that the blocking of the legislation by the upper house was “the height of irresponsibility by the opposition", and he is planning to reintroduce his legislation to the parliament unchanged.


Ardeer Community Playground Bonanza
In another great effort by our community, we have had a donation of 1000 locally indigenous tubestock which were planted on Sunday 14th July 2009 by a mass of local volunteers.

The plants are a welcome contribution that have allowed the Ardeer Community Playground Committee to increase the density of planting around the creek, playground and paths. And once grown, these will make the whole area a very beautiful place to be.


Fix Our Park!
A community meeting of 25 local residents at Parsons Reserve today demanded desperately needed improvements to their local park and playground at Stanford Street. Upgrades were cancelled from the proposed Brimbank City Council budget last year at the request of the then Mayor Sam David so that the funds could be utilised elsewhere.

The park is currently needs upgraded play equipment and redress of its rather unwelcoming environment. A paltry $60,000 for playground upgrade is in the current draft Council Budget, with no mention of the perimeter pathway. Needless to say, the local community deserves to have more confidence that the implementation of the JR Parsons Reserve Masterplan remains a Council priority.


Join a vigil to mourn the passing of Reconciliation Victoria
The Brumby Government has defunded Reconciliation Victoria forcing it to close its doors by June 30, 2009. I just wanted to pass on a message from this important organisation:

"Reconciliation Victoria are calling on all supporters to be part of a silent vigil outside the State ALP Conference on Saturday, 13 June at the Melbourne Town Hall, Cnr Swanston and Collins Streets, from 7.30am - 10am.

Please come wearing black and feel free to bring a poster as a measure of your concern. We want to do a dignified protest, particularly as ALP delegates arrive. "

It's important that the State Labor Party gets the message that Reconciliation Victoria should be allowed to continue its good work.

National Climate Emergency Rally - 1PM June 13th (tomorrow)
A rally to keep the heat on PM Rudd and Climate Change Minister Wong to withdraw their reckless CPRS legislation, green jobs and embrace 100% renewable energy.

Where: State Library. cnr La Trobe and Swanston Streets March to Treasury Gardens. Speakers include Peter Marshal, United Firefighters Union and David Spratt, co-author of "Climate Code Red : case for Climate Emergency".
Entertainment includes: Melbourne comedian Rod Quantock.


Watchdog nails Brimbank building inspector
I was horrified to learn about the findings of the Ombudsman Victoria's second report Conflict of Interest and Abuse of Power by a Building Inspector at Brimbank City Council (tabled today in Parliament).

The Ombudsman, George Brouwer says his report into the actions of a building inspector at our Council should be a reminder to all public officers about the damage caused by conflicts of interest and misuse of power.

“It demonstrates how vulnerable members of the community can be affected by the action of public officers,” Mr Brouwer said.

“It also demonstrates how this can erode the public trust.”
In the wake of the OV's first damning report about councillor misconduct the other councillors have demonstrated a choreographed will to present an image of a 'united council' to the public. In the process, I and many others who have different but valid views on these matters have been roundly ignored.
I am concerned that they will similarly play down the significance of these recent findings at the expense of allowing the corruption and entrenched cynicism which have underpinned poor governance at Brimbank to be flushed out and properly dealt with.


Upcoming Inaugural 'Bike Futures' Conference: 15 - 16 October 2009, Melbourne.
There is massive change happening in bike riding, and local government is at the centre of it. The future is bringing more change, more riders and more challenges at every level.
Bicycle Victoria are proposing to hold a conference that will provide professional development through increased insight, improved technical skill and awareness of best practice in a collegiate manner appropriate for elected representatives and staff in local government.
I'm hoping Brimbank Council send a strong contingent of council officers and councillors.


Open Letter from the Coalition of Concerned Councillors
published in the Age 09/06/2009

OPEN LETTER to Premier Brumby and Minister Madden
Governments have to make difficult decisions. We understand that. However
recent planning reforms have gone too far. In the past few months your
department has:

1. Introduced legislation to deprive local communities of their normal rights to have their own elected representatives make decisions on development applications in their larger shopping centres;

2. Planned to appoint a government-dominated committee to
i) make decisions,
ii) require local residents to write a blank cheque to pay for the committee, and
iii) demand Councils pay the cost of defending the committee's decisions even where residents and Councillors may strongly oppose those decisions.

3. Removed the rights of residents, Councils and VCAT to make decisions on development applications which are deemed important economy boosting opportunities. The normal rights of residents to appeal have been taken away. Applications are now decided behind closed doors.

4. Removed both the rights of residents to be advised of applications next door to them, and to express concern about applications involving social housing and private schools where government funding is involved.

These measures demolish the cornerstone of this state’s planning system – the rights of residents to have a say about their neighbourhood. These rights are at the very heart of our democratic system of governance.
The use of the economic downturn to justify the denial of these fundamental rights is short-term thinking with disastrous long-term consequences. How can communities have any confidence in a planning system where the ends justify the means?
It is time to reinstate residents’ rights; time to return democratic planning processes to the people who elected you to respect and protect those rights in our society.

Postscript: Click here to view a report on the success of the June 10 rally


The Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill 2009: second reading
This week in Parliament, The Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill 2009 will have its second reading. The Bill seeks to offer protection to the most vulnerable Victorians in both public and private housing rental markets. This Bill is to amend the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (RTA) which governs the relationship between tenants and landlords, and invests rights and responsibilities in each party.
This Bill could be characterised both as improving the human rights of Victorians and minimising their impact on the changing climate. The indignity of living in a residence that does not have basic working amenities should not be a reality for people who co-habit such a wealthy country as Australia. This Bill makes it possible for basic living conditions to be complied with by landlords, enhancing the human right to adequate housing.
Such a right is included in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Australia is a signatory, but such a right was excluded by Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006.
Setting insulation, heating, water and energy efficiency standards can be a targeted way for thousands of Victorians to lower their carbon impact. If the Brumby Government has the courage to adopt this Bill (or reject it and later introduce it as their own, which has happened on previous occasions), the social equity and environmental benefits for Victoria would not only be far reaching, but encourage continual improvement of living conditions into the future.


Reborn: national e-waste recycling scheme
Two formidabe NGOs, Environment Victoria and the Total Environment Centre, have launched a new campaign for a national e-waste recycling scheme. REBORN is calling on federal and state environment ministers to give televisions, computers and other old electronics a second life. Visit and tell Peter Garrett you support e-waste recycling.


DACs Out
The State Government has proposed changes to the Planning Legislation Amendment Bill 2009 to establish Development Assessment committees (DACs).


The Brumby Government’s latest attack on the rights of local communities – the Bill to establish Development Assessment Committees (DACs) – was defeated this evening by non-government parties in the Upper House.

The Labor Government wanted to use the Planning Legislation Amendment Bill to strip local government of planning powers and give planning authority to a body of unelected Labor mates appointed by Planning Minister Justin Madden.

I will be watching this space with very closely.
Transition Towns Forum
The MAV is convening a meeting on Thursday 4 June from 10.30am – 3pm at the Spring Street Conference Centre, Melbourne to discuss the role of councils in facilitating an accelerated take-up of the Transition Town (or city or neighbourhood) initiative across Victorian communities.

Here's a recent article by Leo Hickman of UK paper the Guardian on the latest developments of the Transition Towns model for local action for community resilience and tackling climate change and peak oil head on.


Section 223 meeting of Council to hear submissions on the Council Plan and Budget occured this week

Victoria Wind Study Launch
The Alternative Technology Association presents its latest report that looks into the suitability of micro wind-turbine installations in and around Melbourne’s CBD: The Victorian Urban Wind Resource Assessment. Speakers at the launch include the report's author, Mike Bagot, and CEO of the Clean Energy Council, Matthew Warren.

10c can save the world
Greens MLC Colleen Hartland has released a report by her Parliamentary Intern, Ashleigh Kemp, that examines the benefits of a 10c deposit on bottles, cans and cartons.
In Brimbank, 14% of the rubbish going to landfill from kerbside is recyclable containers. In public place bins, it's even higher, at 16% by weight – and that would be even greater by volume. The recycling bins are contaminated by broken glass from drink bottles. With a 10c deposit, those items simply wouldn't be in the bin. No wonder the report concludes that the positive effect it would have on Brimbank cannot be overstated.
I took the idea to Council but despite the financial, social and environmental benefits to Brimbank Council, the Council voted against a motion in support of container deposits. Ours is the only Council to have failed to pass a motion in support of container deposit legislation, one week before the Ombudsman's report into corruption on Council was released.