Election jigsaw puzzle falling into place

Election jigsaw puzzle falling into place

By Sean Car

A debate among City of Melbourne councillors over the state government’s proposed safe injecting room near Queen Victoria Market (QVM) on June 23 has potentially helped to answer a lot of questions about October’s local government elections.

What was already clear before the debate is that all candidates vying for office on October 24 will be going up against a Labor Party ticket spearheaded by Slater and Gordon’s Phil Reed as its Lord Mayoral candidate.

With the remainder of the ticket consisting of Wesa Chau (Deputy Lord Mayor), former Member for Melbourne Jen Kanis’s partner Davydd Griffiths and Glen Eira councillor Mary Delahunty, Labor looks to be giving its bid for Town Hall a serious shake.

But the real questions still surround the current Lord Mayor Sally Capp and the Deputy Lord Mayor Arron Wood. While Capp has made her intentions clear to run for the city’s top job for some time, Cr Wood has largely remained coy.

But the past few months have all but confirmed a build-up to a Lord Mayoral tilt for Wood. Between appearing on the TV series Filthy Rich & Homeless, earning a generous spread in the Sunday Herald Sun and receiving a timely Queen’s Birthday honour, one senses he’s building his profile for something.

Sally on the other hand has only been in the top job for a few years following the demise of former Lord Mayor Robert Doyle. Having come into office through a by-election, she has no experience in running a full-blooded election campaign and all eyes are on who she includes on her ticket.

And on June 23, some pieces of that puzzle appeared to have fallen into place.

The Deputy Lord Mayor had moved a motion to reject the Cohealth site on Victoria St near the Queen Victoria Market (QVM), citing that an overwhelming number of traders and residents were against the state government’s nominated location for an injecting room.

However, on the stroke of the meeting, the Lord Mayor foreshadowed an alternative motion to Cr Wood’s, stating that “carving out” sites this early in the picture would only limit council’s negotiating powers with the state government.

And with Minister for Mental Health Martin Foley having the final say on where a safe injecting room is located within the City of Melbourne, a majority of councillors ultimately agreed with the Lord Mayor’s approach six to four, with Cr Philip Li Liu abstaining.

But it was who voted with the Lord Mayor that provided great intrigue. Namely, Cr Kevin Louey.

Having been around Town Hall for nearly 20 years both as former Lord Mayor John So’s chief of staff and a three-term councillor, Louey would provide Sally Capp’s ticket with valuable experience and strong connections to Melbourne’s Chinese community.

And having historically sided with councillors Wood, Beverley Pinder and Susan Riley, who all previously ran together alongside Robert Doyle, a rare speech in support of the Lord Mayor on June 23 would appear that he has changed allegiances, and that a deal has been done.

What was clear at the meeting was that there was no love lost between Sally and Arron. Cr Wood was clearly frustrated at being ambushed by Capp’s alternative motion, accusing her of “playing politics”.

If there was any doubt whether he would run for Lord Mayor before the meeting, his championing of the injecting room issue combined with his square-off with Sally Capp all but ensured it.

While, publicly, he continues to “consider his options”, his slamming of the Lord Mayor on Neil Mitchell’s 3AW radio program the following morning further added to the intrigue, claiming that Town Hall’s independence was under threat of the Labor Party which he believed had done a preference deal with the Lord Mayor – an allegation strongly refuted by Labor.

If Wood does run, the question remains who his deputy would be. One assumes councillors Pinder and Riley would run on his ticket, but a high-profile deputy with the capability of amassing plenty of votes could put Wood in serious contention.

On the opposing side, one assumes that Kevin Louey would run first on Capp’s ticket, if, of course, a deal has been done. That leaves the question of who would run as her deputy, which has long understood to be Labor Party member Cr Nicholas Reece. And having turned down a spot on the Labor ticket, a Capp-Reece campaign sounds likely.

For now, the rest of the Capp ticket remains a mystery, as do the intentions of the rest of the current sitting councillors.

As usual, the Greens will run a ticket with Cr Rohan Leppert expected to sit first under a sacrificial Lord Mayoral candidate. However, his experienced colleague Cr Cathy Oke is understood to not be running again, potentially leaving the door open to a new Greens face on council.

That leaves councillors Jackie Watts and Le Liu up in the air. While Watts would undoubtedly run on a Gary Morgan-led ticket if she was to go again, the suspected deal between Capp and Louey could see Philip Le Liu resort to the option of running a Liberal Party ticket as a way to winning another term on council.

That leaves the accidental councillor in chair of transport Nicholas Frances-Gilley, who is unlikely to run again •

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