Elections like never before


ALL candidates in the October Mornington Peninsula Shire Council elections must complete a course on local government in August.

The course requirement means candidates will be unable to keep their intentions secret until the last moment on nomination day, although the option of not lodging papers would remain.

The elections are being held during an unprecedented time in local government caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Council meetings are being held online, the CEO John Baker has been granted emergency powers and shire income is under threat with an abnormal number of requests expected to defer rate payments.

Councillors last week fine-tuned the powers Mr Baker can exercise during the caretaker period – the time between the end of one council and the appointment of another.

Councillors also agreed to call for a ban on council and state government candidates receiving campaign donations or at least preventing donations from developers or lobbyists.

In a bid to increase the number of women councillors the Victorian Local Government Association (VLGA) in conjunction with the shire will hold a workshop in July to “connect women with the knowledge, skills and contacts to potentially become local government councillors”.

Currently, five of the shire’s 11 councillors are women.

Although still months away, three councillors – Bev Colomb, Bryan Payne and Rosie Clark – have told The News they will not seek re-election.

Crs Hugh Fraser and Kate Roper say they will stand, while the mayor, Sam Hearn, and David Gill, Simon Brooks, Antonella Celi, Frank Martin and Julie Morris say they have yet to make up their minds.

Two people who have already publicly declared their intention to stand are Paul Mercurio, an outspoken supporter of the Peninsula Aero Club, and Janet Street, of Mornington.

Cr Hearn said he would make up his mind about standing in “another month or two”.

Having a young family meant that it was “sometimes quite difficult serving the community, but incredible to do it and bring about good outcomes”.

Cr Gill said there were “so many things to consider before committing to another four years”.

“I haven’t yet decided, but [because of the mandatory course in August] it will be the earliest we’ve had to make up our minds,” he said.

Cr Celi was “considering” whether to run but would “definitely encourage others to stand, in particular women”.

“I am more than happy to chat to those men and women who are thinking about running in the elections and to answer any questions about the role that councillors undertake in local government and about the shire,” she said.

Cr Celi said the VLGA was leading a campaign for 50 per cent of Victoria’s councillors to be women. The current figure is 38 per cent and to attain the higher number “we would need to have over 320 women elected to council”.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 30 June 2020


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