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.


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.


Streets Ahead at Ardeer PS
Residents gathered to discuss the formation of a new advisory committee to help determine new projects for the Adeer and Albion area. The projects will be promoting a safe, child-friendly neighbourhood.

MAV selects membership of Councillor Conduct Panels
Five legal practitioners and seven people with municipal governance experience have been chosen by the Municipal Association of Victoria to be members of conduct panels that will hear allegations of misconduct by councillors

Funding cut from major council climate change program
Federal Government funding has been withdrawn from a major national program that has assisted many Australian councils to address climate change issues. ICLEI Oceania has revealed the Rudd Government has advised that federal funding for the Cities for Climate Protection (CCP) Australia program will cease on June 30. The departure of CCP leaves twelve years of local government capacity building in this area stranded.

Australian Story "Back to Earth" ABC TV 1, Mon 1 June 2009 at 8pm (EST)See a preview at:
Just a quick note on this tv program that promises to outline some issues facing our food security
"June 1: Dr Maarten Stapper has fascinating ideas on how to better manage our land, to feed the world with less synthetic chemicals. He also challenges the use of GM crops. Dr Stapper paid a high price for promoting a greener, cleaner way to grow food. A CSIRO scientist for 30 years, he left when his views on biological farming and GM collided with those held by CSIRO Plant Industry. Now he travels the country teaching farmers how to improve and nurture their soils, to create healthy, productive, profitable farms and foods for us all."