By Cr David Gibb
DAVID Harrison continues to talk hogwash. Unfortunately readers, just because you read it in the paper, it doesn’t make it true.
He talks about a 6:5 split with me in the imaginary six. And yet how is it that a few amendments to motions that I have put up recently have been defeated, or motions that I’ve moved have been supported by councillors in his imaginary five?
Tim Rogers and I have always voted together on the issue of dwellings in the green wedge. Voting was all over the place on the controversial freeway service centre, the refusal for which I successfully moved. (VCAT confirmed the refusal but the minister approved it over our heads). I moved the refusal motion for the 36-lot housing development in the Tootgarook Swamp, with nine votes in support.
The truth is that, unlike Parliament where a whip tells you how to vote, in council you vote according to your personal values and beliefs, and the numbers fall where they may.
It’s absurd to talk about voting blocs when we’re discussing library opening hours, how much money to put into Home and Community Care or the master plan for a sports ground.
SPA is the only issue that has had a 6:5 split, in both the previous council and this one. Both democratically elected councils have resolved to build SPA in the vicinity of the memorial hall.
But in the best traditions of their friends in the Rupert Murdoch press, Harrison and the MP News have decided that they don’t accept these democratic decisions and the overwhelming community support for SPA, and have sought to undermine SPA over the years.
Imagine Mr Harrison’s surprise when, after his concerted anti-SPA campaign, readers who had been conditioned with at least two years of anti-SPA propaganda voted in the MP News poll 68 per cent in support of council’s decision (to build SPA on the memorial hall site), and a further 26 per cent said build it somewhere else. Clearly the borrowings of the shire are not an issue if 94 per cent of voters want SPA to be built.
Readers may be surprised to know that the poll was pulled off the paper’s website when it didn’t get the required result. However, you can still find it in other places on the web.
And no, Mr Harrison, the estimated cost has not spiralled. Council meeting papers still spell out $33 million just like they did two years ago. (There will be an option in October re a $3 million expansion, but there is no such decision to date.)
Council will consider spending a major sum on upgrading Rosebud Memorial Hall, but that need has been on hold for years because of SPA and is required regardless of SPA. And no, Mr Harrison, shire borrowings are not increasing.
Council is again paying off more than $5 million of principal and interest again this year. Debt is much less than 20 per cent of annual council income, compared to many companies (and many countries) where debt is up to double a year’s income. (The recent Murray inquiry stated that average household debt is 1½ years family income).
Debt is legitimately used to build long term assets for immediate use that a couple of generations enjoy and pay for. (Inter-generational equity).
So there isn’t a problem, confirmed by Treasury Corporation Victoria which was invited by the shire to critique the books. Similarly, the Victorian Auditor General annually gives the best rating of “low risk” to all the statutory indicators. The shire runs a surplus on its recurrent budget (unlike federal government) and that surplus each year is put towards capital works.
All this with this council having the sixth lowest rates out of 79 councils in Victoria.
But that’s not the story you get from the hogwash journalist.
Editor’s note: The Mornington Peninsula News Group is not allied to News Corp and the SPA poll was not pulled from the website because of its results – it was too open to manipulation by both sides of the argument. David Harrison consented by email with “amused resignation to publication of Cr Gibb’s description [of him] and accepts the editor’s invitation to respond with facts to Cr Gibb’s largely inaccurate rantings. All without prejudice, as lawyers say”.