Monday, October 17, 2016

Don't forget to post your vote before 6pm Friday

Vote with care

Minimising the impact of 'dummy' candidates in local government elections was one of the reasons cited for ending the practice of printing preferences with candidates' VEC statements.

'Dummy candidates' are used by more serious candidates to funnel preferences towards them. In the full preferential voting system, preferences from candidates excluded in the count can determine the final outcome.

Most candidates standing for local government are genuinely interested in representing their community and willing to work hard and campaign for the opportunity to be an elected councillor.

There is no legislative prohibition against 'dummy candidates' to disperse the vote and direct preferences, but it is "not desirable" and frivolous nominations "compromise the integrity of the electoral process" according to a 2014 report by Petro Georgiou.

A high number of candidates can be an indication of the use of 'dummy candidates' according to the Victorian Electoral Review discussion paper. While all voters have the right to stand as a candidate, given the limited information about candidates, questions can arise about the motivations for nominating - at a cost of $250.

One of the candidates in the Myrnong Ward line-up raises such questions.

It may seem churlish to point this out rather than letting the voting process take its course. But local government is an important level of our democracy and decisions have significant impacts on residents. Elections are, therefore, serious. And if candidates are not serious, and are running to direct preferences towards another candidate, the process is compromised.

The Facebook posts of Benjamin Smits, which appear to be set to public, suggest that he left Australia on 30th August for Europe - primarily Italy and Portugal. The posts suggest he was in Portugal on September 18th and again after September 24th.

A post on September 18th suggests Mr Smits left Porto, Portugal, promising to return in a few days.

Unlike the 2012 election, reforms now require candidates to nominate in person at Moonee Ponds between September 15th and 20th.  Mr Smits nominated at 10:45am on September 20th.

Posts from Mr Smits after September 24th suggest he returned to Portugal and has not been in Moonee Valley during much of the election period - despite issuing a flyer to many homes in the area with a 'How to Vote' preference list.

Mr Smits has recommended to voters in his VEC statement to put 1- Benjamin Smits and 2-Cam Nation.  Current councillor Cam Nation would have had to provide written consent for his name to be included in Mr Smit's statement.  Candidates did not have to submit the VEC statements in person.

From Mr Smits' VEC statement.

Mr Smits' election material is authorised by him at the address of 59 Mirams St, Ascot Vale. Mr Smits has not been able to be located at this address.  The owners of the property did not confirm whether Mr Smits' name appears on the lease for the property.  Mr Smits is believed to have resided at a property in Essendon earlier this year, prior to departing for Europe.

It is understood that Mr Smits is an employee at Moonee Valley City Council and has taken leave for the election period.

Mr Smits did not make a phone number available via the VEC website.  Attempts were made to contact Mr Smits via a phone number attached to one of his business registrations, but calls went unanswered. 

Local government is important: vote with care.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

More Bikes and Less Pokies

Moonee Valley has a great bike plan, but we need to put more money behind it.  Prioritising cycling and walking in the budget is a must if we are to have a safe, healthy and sustainable community.  Bikes are best...

Unfortunately, I was the only candidate in Myrnong Ward to respond to a survey put out by the Alliance for Gambling Reform - see the article in The Age and the survey responses

I support the removal of all misleading and deceptive features programmed into pokies and I support local governments having proper authority over the location of poker machines in their respective communities. Moonee Valley has one of the highest venues for losses in Airport West and has higher losses per person than surrounding municipalities.


Friday, September 30, 2016

How to Vote in this year's council election

Your ballot paper should have arrived.  If you haven't received it by now, please contact the VEC on 8619 1751.

Number all boxes, SIGN and DATE the envelope and return by post it by 6pm Friday October 21. 


This year, you won't receive an indication of how each candidate would like you to order your votes on the ballot paper.* 

If you would like to support me, please vote:

 '1' for ROSE ISER 

and number all remaining boxes from 2-11 
preferencing progressive, honest, community focused representatives.

Some candidates in Myrnong Ward, Moonee Valley, are distributing their own 'How to Vote' cards. I am not.

The order of candidates on 'How to Vote' cards (HTVs) is most often the result of preference swaps or deals, not the actual order a candidate 'prefers' the other candidates.  

Here is some useful information about candidates' political party membership and preference swaps that are understood to have taken place this election:

Rose Iser - Independent - not a member of any party; not issuing HTV card; no preference swaps

Nicole Marshall - ALP member; not issuing HTV card; no preference swaps

Jim Cusack - ALP member; preference swap with Greens candidate

Jack Giles - Greens member; preference swap with Jim Cusack

Miriam Gillis - ALP member; preference swap with Liberal member candidate

Robert Cricco - Liberal member; preference swap with Miriam Gillis

Tony De Fazio - Independent; preference swaps unknown

Paul Filia - Independent; preference swaps unknown

Scott Agresta - Independent; preference swaps unknown

Cam Nation - Independent; preference direction from another candidate in VEC statement

Benjamin Smits - Independent; VEC statement indicates second preference direction; no response to candidate questionnaire; no contact phone number provided.

This information is based on phone conversations with Jim Cusack, Miriam Gillis and Robert Cricco's team, HTV cards distributed by candidates, and the VEC statements online at: 

*(A disallowance motion was passed by opposition parties in the Victorian Parliament Upper House to stop the VEC distributing candidates' How to Vote instructions).

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

What's your wish for Moonee Valley?

In the past two weeks, I've knocked on 500 doors and had over 250 conversations with Moonee Valley residents.  I've asked you...

"What's your wish for Moonee Valley?"

You've said:
  • sensitive planning that respects neighbourhhood character of streetscapes and private open space of small blocks
  • a heritage overlay for Marshall and Clarence streets in Newmarket and other parts of Ascot Vale and Moonee Ponds
  • more efficient collection of hard rubbish to keep streets safe and clean
  • a focus on urban design in planning
  • adjustments to parking restrictions to accommodate residents
  • attention to footpaths for prams, wheelchairs and children
  • plan for Travancore park to be implemented
  • maintaining parks and green spaces
  • care that weeds are not transferred between green spaces via lawnmowers and other machinery
  • care for vulnerable people facing drug and alcohol addition
  • parking around school areas to be better enforced
  • better enforcement of permit parking
  • funding for more community services
  • employment opportunities
  • respectful responses from the Office of Housing to issues at public housing sites
Kathy's wish is for us to retain our sense of community.

Elhadi's wish is for better security for the Flemington housing estate so that families feel safe at night.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

2016 Council election

I invite you to find out more about me and my work on this website. It's a record of council and community work since 2008. 

Local government decisions have a lasting impact on our community and so Council elections are important.

If you have any questions at all about the election or my candidacy, please call me on
0414 959 427.

Thanks - 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Previous achievements on Moonee Valley Council

From 2007-2010, I served as the Councillor for Flemington, Kensington (now City of Melbourne), Ascot Vale and Moonee Ponds.

During this time, I advocated tirelessly for:

Action on climate change
  • funding for annual targets to lower Council's emissions
  • support for residents to install solar panels and water tanks
  • funding for bike paths to enable children and commuters to ride safely
Environmental protection
  • funding for parks and open space
  • strategies for healthy water ways 
  • sustainable water plans for open spaces and street trees

Community inclusion
  • publications in multiple languages for our large population without English as a first language
  • the inclusion of local artwork in street enhancement projects
  • a strategy for sporting facilities for netball
  • funding for childcare and support for kindergartens
  • support for aged, disability and diversity services
  • heritage protection for suburbs with significant neighbourhood character and inadequate protection
  • consultation with residents on issues affecting them
  • appropriate venue management to restore neighbourhood amenity in Moonee Ponds Mt Road precinct
I fought:
  • over-development at Lombards and 1 Ascot Vale Rd
  • against the destruction of parkland by the proposed East West Link
  • over-development of small blocks resulting in loss of amenity for neighbours
  • poor governance 
  • inequity in spending 
  • the sale of parkland.
In 2007, I was one of the only Councillors to vote against the sale of a portion of Debneys Park that eventually paved the way for the construction of the Lombards tower.

I value investment in environmental and community services that make our suburbs even more vibrant, healthy, inclusive and sustainable.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Local issues - planning, planning and planning

Talking with residents in Travancore and Flemington over the weekend, planning continues to be the most discussed local issue.

Travancore and Flemington are close to the city, so we expect some development and increased density.  But we don't expect, or accept, that our beautiful streets and neighbourhoods need to be spoilt, or that residential amenity should be sacrificed for developer greed.

Areas particularly under threat of over-development are those abutting main roads and commercial precincts including Racecourse, Mt Alexander, Epsom, Ascot Vale and Maribyrnong roads.  

Residents living in areas without heritage protection, like Newmarket, are under increasing stress as a stream of developments are proposed in the area.

So what can we do?

VCAT recently rejected an 8 storey (25m), 62 dwelling development at 436-442 Mt Alexander Rd.  This was in an area designated by Council for 3 storey dwellings - or 5 storey for key sites.  VCAT found that:

  • the Council had done extensive strategic work on the Mt Road corridor and had set preferred heights
  • the site had direct residential interfaces and
  • the proposal failed to address the interfaces in an acceptable manner

What this demonstrates is that where Council puts in the strategic work to specify heights, residential interfaces and other preferred design elements - including neighbourhood character and heritage protection, VCAT can support the intent of these planning guidelines.

This means Council needs to continue to put in the work at the strategic level to detail the preferred heights and design elements in areas that are likely to be subject to development.

Council officers also recommended approval of the proposal at 436-442 Mt Road demonstrating, as one resident put it, a real gap between elected councillors and officers at Moonee Valley. 

It's an ongoing project, but Council putting its shoulder to the wheel and doing the hard strategic work is essential.

From the VCAT decision:

  1. With respect to the proposal’s height, scale and form, the proposal is not acceptable having regard to the site’s physical and strategic context. The strategic direction for the corridor has been the subject of extensive policy development and the resultant planning scheme controls give effect to that policy development. Preferred maximum heights have been established and, while these are not mandatory, the extent to which this proposal seeks to exceed those heights is not acceptable on this site. The review site has direct residential interfaces and the design of this proposal has failed to address those interfaces in an acceptable manner. The amenity impacts of this proposal on its residential neighbours are unacceptable.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Photos by Philip Smith

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Photo by Philip Smith


I've been writing this blog sporadically since 2008.  In the archives, there are many articles about Moonee Valley Council activities between 2008-2010 (see menu on right hand side).

Since 2010, I've used the blog as a travel diary and a space for reflections on politics, life and community conundrums.

There many be something of interest to you - thanks for reading.

You may also be interested in the eastwestlinkblog which is still online.