BEING labelled the worst mayor in Australia was a compliment, according to Mornington Peninsula Shire councillor and former mayor David Gill.
He says the accusation was levelled after the 2019 federal election by Flinders MP Greg Hunt, during a meeting at the shire’s Rosebud headquarters attended by “20 to 30 people, including councillors, senior officers and some of his [Mr Hunt’s] people”.
Cr Gill has since had no hesitation in repeating the Mr Hunt’s claim, and in fact counts it as a compliment and acknowledgment “that I had been doing my job”.
He believes Mr Hunt dubbed him Australia’s worst mayor because he attended functions or events during Mr Hunt’s 2019 election campaign.
“In my opinion, he called me that because he thought I was interrupting his electioneering. I believe I was added to a list of worst mayors.”
However, while Cr Gill has no problem with the title applied by Mr Hunt, he thinks some of his council colleagues – “new councillors” – do not know its origins or the context in which it was bestowed.
Most recently, Cr Kerri McCafferty referred to the title “worst mayor in Australia” when Cr Gill unsuccessfully urged council to retrospectively ask the state government for help in financing the Yawa aquatic centre at Rosebud (“Shire declines to dive in for Yawa money” The News 3/8/21).
“It was amusing to read that new councillors point to political motivations in my endeavours to have the state Labor government fund our aquatic centre. The previous council was unsuccessful because we didn’t have a swinging seat on the peninsula,” Cr Gill said last week.
He said the peninsula now had two marginal state seats, apparently referring to Nepean, held by Labor’s Chris Brayne, and Hastings, where Liberal Neale Burgess could be under threat following a redistribution that has made it nominally “safe” for Labor.
“At the last federal election, I and others raised many issues with Liberal [Flinders MP] Greg Hunt and the election money flowed because, at the time, the election looked close,” Cr Gill said.
“In the past, election promises were few and far between on the peninsula.
“Greg called me the worst mayor in Australia. I enjoyed the title because it meant I was doing my job on behalf of our community.
“The same now applies to Chris Brayne. He is worried about his wafer thin margin and will start doing more if put under pressure.
“He probably thinks that I am the worst local councillor in Australia for holding him accountable and scrutinising government actions that effect the peninsula (“Spoiler alert as MP ‘meet and greets’” The News 12/7/21).
“We need to use community muscle and provide leadership to become noticed.
“Our focus should be to catch up on the funding which has always gone to neighbouring councils who know how to use the vulnerabilities of politicians in advocating for their communities.
“Anyone not advocating hard or [who is] protecting politicians because of their own political leanings are not doing their job.
“After the federal election I congratulated Greg for his work and contribution toward community projects.
“I hope we receive the same response from Chris Brayne, in which case I will certainly congratulate him also.”
Mr Brayne last week told The News that “council should look forward, not back”.
In a Facebook post, Mr Brayne pointed out that the shire had spent $200,000 on naming the aquatic centre (“Shire’s ugly Sorry Day decision” 6/6/20). “Perhaps if that hadn’t happened, the councillor in question might not be coming to the government for more money.”
He said there were many projects needed on the peninsula and councillors should “see how we can work together to get them done”.
“I remain keen to get as much stuff done while I’m fortunate to be in this position,” Mr Brayne said.
His Facebook post was quickly followed by one from Cr Antonella Celi, stating that it was “nowhere near $200,000 for [Yawa’s] naming survey”. The budget of “around $200K” had included branding, marketing and signs.
“I tolerate a lot out there, but I will not stand for an untruth to keep getting repeated,” Cr Celi said. “Councillors are well aware of what we need to deliver to the community, and it would be helpful if the state representative got on with the job to help council deliver.”