Australia: Green/Labor coalition on Yarra City Council award themselves 25% ‘allowance’ rise

Voters’ wish for change represented only by the Socialist Party

Below, Steve Jolly, who recently received the highest vote of any candidate in local elections to Yarra City Council, Melbourne, outpolling all three ALP (Labor) candidates, reports on the coalition formed by the supposed ‘progressive’ Greens and the pro-capitalist ALP, in early December.

Green/Labor coalition on Yarra City Council award themselves 25% ‘allowance’ rise

The Greens and ALP have formed a Coalition on Yarra Council, dividing up the Mayor and Chair of Committees positions for themselves over the next four year, cutting out the 42% of residents who voted Socialist or ‘Independent’.

There was a special Council meeting at Richmond Town Hall to vote for the Mayor for the next year. When I arrived, I sat at the front in my designated seat before a half empty Chamber. There were no other councillors in sight. I asked the CEO where they were and was told they had decided to assemble in the councillor’s room elsewhere in the Town Hall and then march into the Chamber in single file. When they arrived, the CEO had been instructed to ask the gallery to “Stand for the Councillors”, for all the world like the Queen and her flunkies opening the British parliament. The surprisingly few residents in attendance then had to reluctantly stand for their ’elders’. Obviously I stayed sitting. The councillors were liked puffed up peacocks. It was a partial return to the 1950s and it was a disgrace that the supposedly ‘progressive’ Greens were up to their neck in this archaic pomp and ceremony. One worker said to me afterwards "it was like they thought they were better than us".

The first act of this new Council wasn’t to discuss the State government’s proposal to turn Hoddle St into a mini-freeway, or how to improve childcare, or if to bring back the Hard Rubbish collection, but instead to propose an allowance rise of 25% for themselves (from $15,000 to $22,000 for Councillors and from $45,000 to $60,000 for the Mayor)! Only myself and Cllr Smeadley voted against.

Council also voted to keep the undemocratic Committee system where the agenda is set by unelected Officers, instead of fortnightly council meetings where elected councillors and residents have more control.

Councillors were given an opportunity to speak at the end and I asked the Greens if their deal with Labor would also lead to a betrayal of their ideas. No Green voter in Yarra expected the party to go into a Coalition relationship with Labor – especially as the Greens had put this party last on their how-to-vote cards.

The meeting ended with a very flat cocktail party.

It is clear that the obvious wishes of the community for change, as expressed in the election where I got the highest vote of any candidate (no to incessant rate rises, a return of ‘hard rubbish’ collection, opposition to inappropriate development etc) will be only represented by the Socialist Party, both on Council and in the community.

More reports from the Yarra Council and on Steve’s local campaigning work can be found on the SP Council website:

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December 2008