Impressive local field likely

May 12, 2016

By John Gray

Of course the federal election, generally, and specifically here in the seat of Murray, is going to dominate the next seven weeks but we shouldn’t forget our October council elections where three keen prospective nominees have already publicly declared their intention, another three incumbents are likely to seek reappointment and at least eight other ‘‘newies’’ are already rumoured to be chewing over possible candidacy — and there’s more than five months to go to election day.

Out of the dozen so far declared, or in the ‘‘quite likely’’ range, there are five or six names that could really cut the mustard, all with good chances of making up the nine.

Of course it’s early days, but I would say that there’ll be an impressive field vying for seats.

So far the calibre is good — positive, generally highly qualified, and each of the known possibilities have more than a modicum of vision and commitment.

This augurs well.

What don’t we want?

Well, we’re bound to get a couple of them — but what we don’t want is the anti-council malcontents or the single-issue bellyachers.

Since its inception Greater Shepparton has had five-and-a-half that have fitted that category — all municipal duds that have achieved zilch. All were going to convert the council to their way — all fell by the wayside.

Naturally each successful candidate will bring new ideas to the table. We want, indeed need, that. We just don’t want gripers and naysayers.

Past experience shows they just don’t fit with a progressive council.

●At the April council meeting in Mooroopna, where the draft budget was adopted and endorsed for public comment, Cr Fern Summer launched an extraordinary and ill-conceived attack on the municipal charge which forms a part of the overall rates and charges.

‘‘This is not an administrative charge but a subsidy to the rich from the poor,’’ she claimed.

Well, to check the accuracy of her claim, let’s see how the Local Government Act describes the municipal charge. Explicitly the Act states it is an administrative charge — so that debunks one aspect of the Summer fantasy.

The draft budget indicates the municipal charge will raise $7.5million next year, so if Cr Summer had got her way that amount would be shared across the rate categories, increasing substantially the rate burden for many people.

As an example, commercial rates in the CBD would rise by upwards of 10 per cent, which is a bizarre and poorly-researched proposition to be promoted by someone who proclaims to be an advocate for the CBD.

Thought bubble policy in action? You betcha.

But the nonsense didn’t stop there. Cr Summer also proposed that $50000 be allocated to the Shepparton Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber does a great job for its members; its role is like a trade union for retailers.

Is the council going to be Father Christmas also to the Goulburn Valley Trades and Labour Council, the United Firefighters Union, the Health Services Union and heaps of other worthy like causes?

Talk about opening Pandora’s Box.

Potential beneficiaries please form a queue at city hall.

●A petition is a request to do something, most commonly addressed to a government official or public entity.

What is its effectiveness? In most instances, except for supportiveness, absolutely sweet nothing.

Personally, having seen dozens of petitions vainly presented in various situations, I have no time for petitions — I simply refuse to sign them, no matter how worthy the cause.

It is my belief that a couple of well-written letters are worth dozens, hundreds or even thousands of signatures on paper. If I feel strongly enough about an issue I will write a letter or make a submission.

Of course, some political parties love to pander to populism and, tongue-in-cheek, I suspect, set up petitions at their local MPs’ offices — usually when they’re in opposition — fully aware that those sheets of paper will, after presentation, go nowhere. A cruel stunt.

I recall 800 signatures being collected in two days outside a Mooroopna supermarket against the then Shire of Rodney introducing the first big black garbage bins — a suggestion that went straight into the nearest bin itself. Glad it did.

Nah ... there are better ways, in these days of near universal literacy and electronic voice and printed communication, than mediaeval petitioning.

Shepparton’s John Gray has vast experience in local government, urban water reform and natural resource management.

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