Council elections - here we go! All you need to know ...
By Sean Car
With candidate preferences now submitted and the City of Melbourne officially in caretaker mode, voters can now meet the full field that’s in front of them ahead of the council elections on October 24.
With 59 candidates having lodged with the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) for the nine councillor positions and 18 for the leadership positions of Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor, the virtual race for Town Hall is now on!
With COVID-19 meaning direct access to candidates will be restricted in what is an entirely postal voting election, Docklanders will have the opportunity to meet their nine Lord Mayoral candidates at 6pm on October 7 via an online Zoom forum hosted by the Docklands Chamber of Commerce and Docklands News. To register email your details and any questions you’d like to ask of the candidates to [email protected] Terms and conditions for the forum can be found on the Chamber’s website: docklandscc.com.au.
Voters can also gain a greater sense of who they’re voting for in this election thanks to voluntary donation and personal interests disclosure registers hosted on Docklands News publisher Hyperlocal News’s website (hyperlocalnews.com.au).
While the current Local Government Act 2020 only requires candidates to disclose their donations 40 days after the election, six of 11 councillors voted in favour of the voluntary scheme in August. Five abstained, largely citing privacy concerns.
Candidates shouldn’t feel forced to declare their conflicts given the voluntary nature of these initiatives but voters can be assured that such concerns are invalid and if anything, questionable. Both registers set very clear and general guidelines.
The first register calls on candidates to declare donations or gifts to the cumulative value of $500 or more received during the calendar year 2020. The second register invites candidates to voluntarily disclose board positions, political party memberships and financial interests valued at more than $10,000 (excluding superannuation but including self-managed super funds).
At the time of publishing, only Teams Arron Wood, Morgan-Watts and The Greens had participated in the voluntary scheme but more were expected to cooperate in the weeks still leading up the election.
While most of the 59 councillor nominees are splashed across team tickets outlined below, there are a handful of independents who will be hoping for as many locals to vote below the line for them as possible.
As for the leadership team tickets, here’s what we know …
Team Sally Capp
The frontrunner and incumbent Lord Mayor Sally Capp left her big reveal to the last-minute announcing Team Capp on September 21 just a day before nominations closed. And in no great surprise, Labor Party member Nick Reece will run alongside her as deputy, while the experienced Kevin Louey looks set for another term sitting in the number one councillor position on her ticket.
Despite both Reece and Louey carrying some baggage as former Team Doyle councillors, the appointments appear smart strategic moves by Capp, with Reece’s presence likely steering Labor Party ticket preferences in her direction. While not being regarded as a particularly vocal councillor over his three council terms, former John So chief-of-staff Louey brings loyalty, capital and a wealth of experience to the Capp ticket and will no doubt help her navigate her first fully-fledged election campaign.
While barrister and Liberal Party member Roshena Campbell looks set to win a seat on council sitting next on the ticket underneath Louey, it’s the third name which provides perhaps the most exciting prospect of Team Capp.
If elected, RMIT law professor, deputy pro vice-chancellor for indigenous education and engagement and Wiradjuri man Dr Mark McMillan could become the first ever indigenous councillor to serve at the City of Melbourne. And while third position on Capp’s ticket makes the task of election seemingly difficult, his inclusion might provide some incentive for more left-leaning tickets such as The Greens to exchange preferences.
The remainder of Team Capp includes architect and artist and Citizens for Melbourne president Tania Davidge, Cherry Bar owner James Young and international relations expert and anthropologist Tina Kuek.
All in all, given Capp’s political inexperience, the constraints she has been forced to contend with during her two years rebuilding the council’s reputation following the demise of Robert Doyle and her leadership during COVID-19, she’s very well placed.
While many have vented frustration with delays in revealing her ticket, her excuse of responding to the pandemic has been more than reasonable, and in spite of these challenges, she’s managed to form a pretty well-balanced ticket.
In unveiling her team on September 21, she described it as “the right team for Melbourne” and she pledged to lead the city’s economic rebuild and create 80,000 new jobs during the next fours.
“The team represents the breadth of the talent, diversity and character of our great city,” Capp said. “Every one of them deserves to be elected.”
“There’s a big job ahead in reactivating and revitalising our city and, if I’m re-elected as Lord Mayor, I will need a team to help get the job done.”
“If re-elected, I will use every lever that I have to generate jobs, jobs and more jobs.”
Team Arron Wood
The current Deputy Lord Mayor Arron Wood hasn’t enjoyed his two years working with Sally Capp and he is now putting it all on the line by challenging her for the top job under the slogan, “Revive Melbourne”.
The announcement of his nomination did, however, clash with Premier Daniel Andrews revealing his long-awaited roadmap out of COVID-19 on September 6, meaning less exposure on his Herald Sun exclusive than perhaps he would have liked.
While he too carries the unwanted baggage of “Team Doyle”, his bid for Town Hall has been welcomed by many who haven’t been completely sold on Sally Capp’s leadership style and Wood undoubtedly presents as her biggest challenger in this race.
With a strong track record over his two terms on council, particularly in the sustainability, business and homelessness spaces, he’s framed his campaign on the narrative of “less glossy renders, more hard work and delivery”. His tireless work in helping deliver the likes of the Melbourne Renewable Energy Project, shouldn’t be taken lightly by voters.
Accompanied by business owner, marketing, fashion and lifestyle guru Lisa Teh as his Deputy Lord Mayoral running mate, Team Arron Wood is vowing to fight for ratepayers and businesses if elected.
“I am a rate paying resident and small business person – can any other Lord Mayoral candidate claim to be as well?” Arron said.
“Reviving Melbourne is my only motivation. It’s fine to cut ribbons and rub shoulders but I’m more interested in getting things done, in reviving Melbourne for our ratepayers.”
“I am not beholden to any political groups, corporate interests or developers. With me what you see is what you get and if you vote for me, you get me.”
Fellow business owner and Chinese-born Jason Chang is placed in first spot on the Team Arron Wood ticket and based on how preferences could likely flow, could be the only member of the team elected to council.
But the appointment of Liberal Party member and former Melbourne councillor Peter Clarke at number two raises some concern for Wood as to the likelihood of preference swapping with the left in this election.
Mr Clarke, a renowned property consultant, architect and close colleague of former state Liberal opposition leader Matthew Guy, is not popular with the likes of The Greens who Wood might be dependent on for a shot at Lord Mayoralty. Mr Clarke was previously elected to council on pollster Gary Morgan’s ticket, pointing to a possible preference swap, which would really only help get Jackie Watts re-elected.
While being touted by many as Wood’s chosen deputy in this election, close colleague and friend Beverley Pinder slots in at number three on the ticket, despite contributing a healthy $30,000 donation to his campaign.
Nevertheless, having served on council for the best part of eight years, Pinder is veering towards retirement anyway, saying she felt like she had nothing to lose and was proud to support Arron’s campaign.
The remainder of Team Arron Wood consists of clinic research professional and small business owner Abdi Ali and lawyer, appeals judge, law lecturer and entrepreneur Beverley Honig.
The team’s priorities include getting people back to work, developing a targeted precincts strategy, supporting a rate freeze, reviving construction and tackling the homelessness crisis.
Labor Party veteran Phil Reed and his official Labor endorsed ticket represents the only team to have publicly unveiled itself months ago, rather than days or weeks in the case of Team Capp and Team Wood.
While the Labor team naturally hasn’t been hampered with the burden of running the city at the same time as a campaign, its early exposure to voters places it in a favourable position; less so for its leadership nominees, but more in relation to its councillor hopefuls.
Mr Reed and Deputy Lord Mayoral candidate in businesswoman and multicultural campaigner Wesa Chau have been out in force over the past few months, spruiking their vision for “cultural change” and “real city government” at Town Hall focused on delivery and accountability.
It’s a vision supported by a track record of a major political party engine room that has obvious merit. However, there is also concern among some voters as to the Labor Party’s growing influence at Town Hall.
Many were surprised by Labor powerbroker Nick Reece’s early decision to jump on Team Capp rather than join his party cohorts. It’s led to some speculation of his role as the so-called “puppet master” of this election, and Phil Reed has preferenced Sally Capp’s team ahead of Arron Wood.
But while nothing is certain, North Melbourne pub owner Davydd Griffiths and experienced former Glen Eira Mayor Mary Delahunty are well positioned in the first two councillor spots and would undoubtedly bring fresh and experienced voices to council.
Rounded out with Carlton community liaison Hamdi Ali, the Labor team is promising action- and innovation-based approaches to supporting housing affordability, renewable energy, employment, small businesses and waste management.
Notably, Labor has put forward a self-described “game-changing” policy to deliver a rate-holiday to build-to-rent developments in an effort to provide more affordable housing in the city.
Mr Reed also cites the under-delivery of council’s capital works budget as a key motivation for change at Town Hall, stating the days of simply running tenders and turning up for the ribbon cutting were over.
“After 2020, our city will never be the same again. Labor doesn’t fear this change - we see residents, business owners, artists and creators who will flourish again with clear vision and strong leadership,” Mr Reed said.
“We are asking people to vote Labor for Melbourne, because we have a real plan to get the job done.”
Never to be underestimated, The Greens have a loyal and ever-growing base of grassroots voters and could pose its greatest challenge for Town Hall yet in this election.
With the impacts of COVID-19 forcing the focus of policy-makers at all levels of government firmly back to the needs of the local community, residents and businesses alike, The Greens policy platform presents as an increasingly attractive proposition to voters.
If the “top-heavy” leadership of the other tickets doesn’t bode so well for those feeling disenfranchised by the bigger players, then who knows how far The Greens might go in 2020.
With a more competitive and stacked field this time around as opposed to 2016 where The Greens won 26 per cent of the overall vote to Team Doyle’s 52 per cent, it will all come down to preferences.
But in what is largely a progressive (and even socialist) field, CBD resident of 19 years Apsara Sabaratnam could give Sally Capp a real run for her money.
The experience of Cr Rohan Leppert is well-known from his two terms on council and one can all but lock in a third term. Dr Olivia Ball replaces outgoing three-term councillor Cathy Oke in second position on the ticket having run as the party’s Lord Mayoral candidate in 2016.
In an effort to retain more residents in the city, Ms Sabararatnam will lead the team under the policy initiative, “A Good Night’s Sleep for Everyone”, which targets areas close to the hearts of Docklanders including building regulation and residential amenity.
Rohan Leppert said sunlight, open space and energy efficient design needed to be protected and enhanced in Docklands by not leaving its planning controls open to secret development agreements.
North Melbourne resident and midwife Roxane Ingleton will run as deputy to Ms Sabaratnam on The Greens ticket, with Carlton resident Emily Corcoran, Kensington resident David Jeffery, Southbank resident and urban planner Nakita Thomson, and East Melbourne resident Charlotte George making up the remaining councillor spots.
Bring Back Melbourne
The surprise packet of this election, without question.
Somewhat renowned nightclub owner Nick Russian emerged out of nowhere in August as a possible challenger for Lord Mayor by the Herald Sun, having reportedly been approached by forces within the Liberal Party, despite being an independent.
While the Liberal Party doesn’t officially endorse candidates, Russian’s nomination certainly provides the only current Liberal councillor in Philip Le Liu’s campaign for re-election with more of a profile.
Le Liu had flagged his own unofficial Liberal Party ticket for some time, placing himself in the number one councillor slot. In the end he has finished up with a team consisting of Serena Lu Jiang, Lauren Sherson and Darin Schade – all ex-Liberal state and federal candidates.
Russian will run alongside Liberal member Michael Burge (deputy), under the motto of “Bring Back Melbourne for business, residents and students”. Like many business owners, Russian has felt the devastation of COVID-19 and is putting his power and prestige to good use with a foray into local politics.
The team will focus on a number of key policy objectives, namely allowing residents to choose where 50 per cent of their rates could be invested, reenergising the night-time economy and “NO” to a safe injecting room in Melbourne.
Philip Le Liu has more than held his own during his four years on council having been elected in 2016 on Ken Ong’s ticket. Having served as chair of the council’s international engagement portfolio, his passion for international students and business has shone through.
On September 15, he called on the council to declare a business and jobs emergency in the City of Melbourne and he said his team would be putting the same pressure on the state government in the post-COVID recovery.
Back To Business - Jennifer Yang
Labor Party member Jennifer Yang has vowed to become the “night-time” Lord Mayor if elected and is campaigning under the slogan “back to business” .
The former Manningham Mayor and Lord Mayoral by-election candidate in 2018 where she came close to toppling Sally Capp, shouldn’t present as so much of a threat in this election given the stacked nature of the field.
But she is understood to be backed by Labor’s industrial left, which includes some unions, and her presence in the race does present some concern for Sally Capp as there will likely be some preference swapping with Arron Wood.
Her Deputy Lord Mayoral running mate is Block Arcade business owner Sandra Gee, while the councillor ticket features construction figure Elizabeth Doidge and businessman and former Manningham Mayor Charles Pick.
Ms Yang’s greatest role in this election will undoubtedly be stirring up the anti-Sally Capp forces, but she will once again pose a considerable challenge and will be helped by being preferenced second on the Phil Reed Labor Team ticket.
“I know what business needs to get back on its feet after the COVID lockdown,” Ms Yang said. “The city’s traders, retailers and businesses need our Lord Mayor to be a strong voice, not a weak echo. Let’s put the ‘B’ back into CBD with policies aimed at supporting our business community and a Lord Mayor who’ll stand up for us, whether to the state government or to narrow interest groups.”
“‘Back to Business’ brings together retailers, traders, residents and the construction and business communities to give Melbourne the leadership it’s been missing for two years”.
Ms Yang said her team was focused on a strong rate relief plan, creating dedicated business portfolios for key industries within the council, advocate for “substantial changes” to the government’s C270 planning controls and provide greater stimulus to businesses suffering from the impacts of COVID-19.
Pollster and chairman of Roy Morgan Research, Gary Morgan is no stranger to the City of Melbourne and he’s going around once again largely to help get long-serving councillor Jackie Watts re-elected.
Friends of Queen Victoria Market (QVM) Mary-Lou Howie will run as his deputy under a campaign heavily focused on getting businesses in Melbourne out of lockdown, supporting QVM traders and relocating residents living in public housing towers.
“The Queen Victorian Market does not need the negative impacts of an active drug market in its area – on top of COVID,” Mr Morgan said.
“The Morgan-Watts Team priority will be to relocate residents from state government housing towers to COVID-safe housing, continue homeless housing – with additional social programs, protect Melbourne’s heritage – stop ‘selfish’ destruction, and cut Melbourne rates – both business and residential.”
While Morgan has stated his intentions to support Sally Capp in terms of preference swapping, Morgan’s former running mate Peter Clarke, who is running on Team Arron Wood, will receive his councillor preferences.
Either way, Labor Party member Jackie Watts looks likely to win another term on council and her community-driven politics has found a practical voice during the past four years on issues such as maritime and knowledge.
The rest of the Morgan-Watts ticket consists of Liberal Party member and Coalition of Resident and Business Associations (CoRBA) president Michael Kennedy, logistics engineer Haya Al-Daghlas and Docklands academic Dr Dashi Zhang.
As reported in the September edition of CBD News, the Victorian Socialists having formed a ticket for the election, spearheaded by Flinders Street Station worker Kath Larkin, Daniel Nair Dadich (deputy) and Chris di Pasquale in the first councillor spot.
While vowing to revolutionise the position of Lord Mayor and represent front line workers, Ms Larkin’s major objective will be attempting to get di Pasquale, an ESL teacher working in the CBD, elected as a councillor.
While there are a number of left-leaning forces on this ticket, one isn’t sure if there is enough to make that happen but the Socialists are up for the fight and it will be interesting to see how they fare.
Ms Larkin slammed current councillors for their failure to put the interests of city workers and residents above big business. She said constituents were struggling to be heard by a council hopelessly compromised by donations from developers and the top end of town.
Long-time political hopeful Wayne Tseng (pictured) is running for Lord Mayor alongside Gricol Yang as deputy under the name Team Zorin and hopes to improve his political record of four losses with the Liberal party at state and federal levels.
Mr Tseng is the founder of eTranslate, a company that offers translation and cultural consultation for businesses. He is also an avid property investor and founded the Chinese Chamber of Property Investors, a non-profit organisation that helps Chinese nationals invest in the Australian property market.
While he has since resigned from the Liberal Party, Mr Tseng is running on the platform of improving transparency in government and giving citizens a bigger say in what goes on by implementing a “digital democracy”.
“Our main advocacy is to promote stronger participation of people in the course of government – in this case council – decisions,” he said.
His plan includes implementing a social media platform specifically for council to hear suggestions and interact with voters so that they can have a better say in the democratic process.