MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire Council’s online federal election candidates’ “pledge tracker” was made by a “councillor consultative group” consisting of five councillors and several council officers.
Two weeks ago, the tracker showed seven promises made by Liberal Party candidate for Flinders Zoe McKenzie and none for Labor, which had made an election promise (“Shire following the money” The News 10/5/22).
The tracker is supposed to be listing campaign promises and pledges by candidates in Flinders and Dunkley electorates, but only mentions Liberal and Labor candidates.
Flinders has 10 candidates and Dunkley nine.
Under the heading “Flinders electorate election pledge tracker” and in much smaller type, is the line: “In the lead up to the federal election, we are keeping track of all candidates’ election pledges for the Mornington Peninsula.”
The internal council group which decided to track candidates’ election promises comprises the mayor Anthony Marsh, deputy mayor Lisa Dixon, and Crs Antonella Celi, David Gill and Steve Holland.
Marg D’Arcy, campaign manager for Labor candidate Surbhi Snowball, said it seemed “blatantly unfair” that the shire was only listing pledges made by the Liberal and Labor candidates.
“This exercise is misleading and unfair to other candidates by only focusing on pledges and not talking about policies and the impact they may have on the people on the peninsula,” D’Arcy said.
“It ignores policies of the candidates, many of which will be of considerable benefit to the electorate.”
D’Arcy said an email from the shire on 27 April asked for Labor’s pledges “but it didn’t say they would be put on the council website”.
The date of the email from the shire coincided with an announcement by McKenzie and fellow Liberal Sharn Coombes, who is standing for Dunkley, of $5 million for a section of the Peninsula Trail. The mayor Cr Anthony Marsh and deputy mayor Lisa Dixon posed for photos with the two candidates next to a trail sign (“Candidates go vote-shopping with Cash” The News 3/5/22).
D’Arcy said listing only monetary pledges ignored policies for climate change, housing shortages, aged care and child care.
She said retiring Flinders MP Greg Hunt had previously pledged $75 million for an overpass at Jetty Road, Rosebud without first consulting the state government.
“I am reminded of the over $1 million which Greg Hunt provided to spend on sand replenishment in Mount Martha without any discussion or thinking about the impact of climate change and how we work to mitigate the effects of climate change,” she said.
“I am very disappointed that the shire would indulge in such a deliberately misleading and shallow approach to the policies and programs that are being put before the Australian people at this election.”
Christine de Kock, campaign manager for Liberal Democrat candidate Chrysten Abraham, said she had not received any notification from the shire about the pledge tracker.
“The democratic process gets a bit skewed if you’re not one of the major parties with friends or money. I wonder how council’s good governance procedures allows the tracker on their website during an election? If you go to a federal government site they have a disclaimer,” she said.
“I’m sure Chrysten would be available for a photo with the mayor.”
Cr Marsh told The News that he had attended an announcement by Labor’s Dunkley candidate, sitting MP Peta Murphy, of money to upgrade the Emil Madsen Reserve, Mount Eliza.
He said the tracker was created “to track pledges made by candidates funding local community projects and initiatives”.
“Additionally, we stated that we would not publish or endorse national party policies as these are covered hourly in the mainstream media,” Marsh said.
He said the tracker “clearly shows” Murphy had pledged more than 30 times the amount of money for Mount Eliza than that pledged by Snowball for the rest of the peninsula.
“Perhaps Ms D’Arcy’s concern is that we’ve highlighted the difference in party funding priorities across the divisions?”
Marsh said the “reality is that only the two major parties are likely to form government. We will publish pledges received by any candidate, but have only received pledges from the Liberal and Labor candidates across the two divisions”.
It was “entirely appropriate to attend an announcement of funding for a council-led project [such as the Peninsula Trail]”.
“It is highly unlikely that a candidate would be able to deliver funding if their party did not form government, so we appreciate that these pledges have removed the double dependency of party and candidate,” he said.