Flimsy Reasoning Means No Democracy for Brimbank

The decision by the Baillieu government to deny Brimbank residents and ratepayers their right to elect their representatives to the Council might seem like a pithy kind of issue; something to ignore, or as some have put it “to get over it” but it is a serious issue.

The Brimbank City Council under administration is making decisions about the future of the municipality without the representation of the residents and ratepayers. Sure there is some consultation with the community but it’s much like the consultation offered when residents and ratepayers could elect their representatives. But then it also matters because the very reasons for extending the administration are based on some very flimsy reasoning; and it’s the flimsy reasoning which should worry us all.

The decision by the Minister for Local Government was based on two reports. One of those reports was completed late last year and the other report barely covers 5 pages. The Minister having considered two reports, not even 20 pages in length between them, decided these reports contained enough evidence to extend the administration. There are some that believe the Minister took a considered position on the matter; but that’s hardly convincing when the reports contain innuendos, rumour and conjecture. And these reports were not even made available publically before the Minister axed democracy for another 4 years in Brimbank.

In fact the reports are questionable in their methodology, analysis and recommendations.

So let’s go through these reports and see what the Minister used to base her decision upon.

Report One [Scales-Report-November-2011]

The first report to consider is the older of the two. It was produced in November 2011.

It is a spectacularly unspectacular report. It makes a lot of assumptions and gives little details about how recommendations have been ultimately determined. In numerous instances it appears the author relies entirely on the opinion of a handful of community groups that supports the administration of Brimbank City Council.

This report spends more time looking at the programs of the Council and how the administration has gone about cleaning up the mess; auditing programs and schemes; and implementing strategies that hadn’t been implemented by the previous Council. The report argues that the current administration, while having done a good job to-date, needed more time to ensure the work currently done was completed. The report also argued that additional time in administration was warranted as other important strategies needed to be well embedded and in latter stages of implementation before a return to democratically elected representatives of residents and ratepayers.

While these sound like amicable aims they aren’t really based on ensuring there is representation of residents and ratepayers in the work of the administrators and Council management. This is not about the hard-working staff delivering the much-needed services, this about direct representation elected by residents and ratepayers. The work of the administrators is about setting the future direction for the municipality with what can only be called feeble consultation, held at times that are difficult for many people to attend. Any strategy will be soulless and the privy of bureaucrats as there is no elected representation, no matter what consultation takes place.

Anyway, carrying on, instead of carrying on.

Report Two [Request-for-option-Brimbank-City-Council]

This report as it has been released to the public provides nothing worthwhile on which to base a decision as important as the one to remove the democratic rights of Brimbank residents and ratepayers. The report is quite flimsy and doesn’t really explain why there should be an extension in the administration of the council. It picks up on the report noted above and it curiously mentions possible outcomes from a fair election that could be ‘unpredictable’.

The report has as one of the conclusions, remarkably, that because there is no way to predict the outcomes of an election, the council should continue to remain under administration.

This may seem to be okay for some but to people like me this is absolutely wrong. There can be little doubt that this a questionable reason. There are no real reasons provided by the report and relies on much innuendo about what ‘could’ and ‘might’ be the case, while citing the need for the administration to bed down current projects and make sure that strategic plan initiatives have begun.

It is also concerning that a government would use such a report, with such reasoning, to support a decision to extend Brimbank City Council’s administration.

Concluding remarks

It’s pretty disappointing that one of our Western Metropolitan Region Upper House  Members of Parliament, Mr Bernie Finn, strongly supports the on-going taxation of residents and ratepayers without representation. It’s also disappointing that despite the rhetoric the conservatives found it convenient to use political interference as the reason to continue the administration.

The decision made by the conservative Baillieu government was not made in the best interests of the Brimbank’s residents and ratepayers. It was a decision to suit political interests.

One has to wonder at what point will the Liberal Party stand up for democracy, as they claims they do, and restore the democratic rights of Brimbank residents and ratepayers to elect their local councillors.

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