Mayor to ‘explain’ Paris trip


MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire mayor Graham Pittock has invited the public to attend an “open presentation” about the recent Paris climate talks.

The invitation posted on the Mornington Peninsula New Group’s Facebook page comes after 17 mostly critical and derisive comments about the shire paying for the mayor to attend the international talks.

However, with the page having more than 29,500 followers, the post could have seriously embarrassing results, with thousands potentially turning up either to hear the mayor discuss a serious topic or to be involved with the “drinks after” part of the invite.

The Paris trip has also inflamed already strained relationships between councillors, with Cr Andrew Dixon entering the Facebook fray with a comment under his online persona, “Billy Dixon”.

The mayor’s planned presentation with the added “drinks after”, “explains why the councillors’ lounge has suddenly upgraded from Red Label to Black Label scotch”, according to Billy Dixon.

“But hey, at least we’re sharing it with the public – see, we’ve gotta butter you up with expensive free booze (that your rates paid for) so that you’ll believe our Paris journey was totally hip and worth it. I’m sure we had a phenomenal impact on global energy policies, but you’ll hear all about it at our cute little slideshow,” Billy Dixon’s post states.

Cr Pittock was accompanied to Paris by Cr Hugh Fraser and council staffer Jessica Wingad after the shire was among 10 Australian municipalities invited to attend the United Nations climate change conference (COP21).

Ms Wingad, the shire’s renewable resources team leader, was at the conference to “learn of latest global trends and their potential application locally”. The cost of sending her to Paris was about $6000. The climate summit is aimed at getting international agreement to keep global warming to below two degrees.

Top of the list attending the summit were national leaders and government ministers, including Australia’s Environment Minister Greg Hunt, who is also the MP for Flinders, the electorate that covers much of the peninsula.

Cr Pittock, while still in Paris, issued a news release backing Australia’s stand on tackling climate change as outlined by Mr Hunt (“Mayor backs climate plan at Paris peace talks”, The News 8/12/15).

The news release included a description of the National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy supplied by Mr Hunt’s office (see letters).

It also stressed the importance of the talks’ outcome to the shire, which includes 10 per cent of Victoria’s coastline.

Cr Pittock used the news release to take a swipe at the state Labor government’s decision to lease the Port of Melbourne and jeopardise the “future port of Hastings”.

Late Friday Cr Pittock said climate change is a global issue with local impacts.

Although Crs Pittock and Fraser have said they will reimburse any expenses above the limits set by the Local Government Act (essentially $16,000 during their four-year terms), critics claim they should have stayed at home.

Comments ranged from the trip – estimated at $12,000 for the two councillors – being a waste of money and why the shire did not use the internet to access information to imposing parking fees on visitors to the peninsula to the need for footpaths.

“Tom Horn” wants a council job because “the perks are awesome”; Leanne Armstrong: “And how exactly does it matter to the rest of Australia to have some egocentric local mayor agreeing with a federal government plan on an international stage?”; David Evans: “Word for word from Hunt’s office. More puppets?”; Helen Gazzara: “It appears then, that while we are able to research it, the local councillors need to spend $12,000 to fly to Paris to find the answers. It is not the destination we object to, but the cost of the journey.”

  • The mayor’s “open presentation” (with Cr Fraser and Ms Wingad) starts 6pm Monday 21 December at the council chambers in Besgrove St, Rosebud.

First published in the Mornington News – 15 December 2015


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