Labor calls for “culture change” at Town Hall

By Sean Car

For the first time in recent memory, the Labor Party has formed a serious ticket in its bid for Town Hall in 2020 and its team says it wants to “change the culture” and create a “real city government”. 

Led by Lord Mayoral candidate Phil Reed and Deputy Lord Mayoral candidate, businesswoman and multicultural campaigner Wesa Chau, Mr Reed said his team was looking to bring “good government” with a track record of delivery to Town Hall. 

And Mr Reed, who currently works as head of government and stakeholder relations at Slater and Gordon, cited the City of Melbourne’s poor record of underspending its capital works budget as prime motivation to overhaul the council’s management. 

“When you look at the stark contrast between the way the Andrews Government has got on with the job of delivering large capital projects like the metro rail tunnel, and the abject failure of council projects like the Southbank Boulevard parks, there’s a clear need for cultural change at Town Hall,” he said. 

“We’re going to change the culture from that of a local council to a real city government where the decision makers and the bureaucrats have to take accountability for the full performance of their projects - not simply run a tender and them expect to turn up for the ribbon cutting.”

“My own background in executive management has taught me the importance of having proper accountability in management and it starts with making decisions, not excuses.”

“This is vitally important as we see a large amount of infrastructure spending proposed for the City of Melbourne, and we face a restructuring of city workforces and workplaces.”

The Labor ticket vying for office at the October 24 local government elections includes local resident and small business owner Davydd Griffiths, former Mayor of the City of Glen Eira Mary Delahunty and community liaison Hamdi Al. 

Mr Reed said his team was busy putting the finishing touches on one of the most “comprehensive policy agendas” to be put before voters since the city’s governance structure was reshaped in the early 2000s. 

He said the city needed policies that addressed a long-term vision for key issues such as transport and affordable housing, as well as the short-term challenges of economic recovery in the post COVID-19 environment. 

“It is this real-life experience that will lead the City of Melbourne out of lockdown,” he said. “Labor has people on our ticket who understand business and what it means to live and work in our City of Melbourne communities.”

“Davvyd Griffiths’s pub has been shut down and lost trade like so many small businesses, Mary Delahunty works for one of the biggest Industry Super funds and understands the climate we need to create to stimulate activity, and Hamdi Ali lives and works in Carlton as a community leader among some of our most disadvantaged public housing communities.”

Mr Reed said his team was currently developing a set of policies called “COOL Melbourne”, which stood for “Coming out of Lockdown”. With city businesses hopefully looking to emerge from lockdown in the last quarter of 2020, he said there were a lot of things “big and small” that could be done. 

He wants to start by removing permit fees and restrictions for businesses who wish to promote their business at the front of their premises and overhaul the council’s website to become a “real community directory”. 

He also said Labor naturally supported its state counterpart’s desire for a safe injecting room in the municipality, and was supportive of the Queen Victoria Market (QVM) renewal project proceeding “largely as envisaged”. 

“It [QVM renewal plan] still has some obvious challenges,” he said. 

“The transport issues around car-parking still need a better solution and the key is to engage with the people who use the market and ensure money through the tills of the traders. If we can focus on what built form guarantees the experience and convenience for shoppers we’ll get a final result that works for everyone.”

Despite speculation of a preference deal being done with Lord Mayor Sally Capp, Mr Reed dismissed the claims, saying his team would wait to assess the “full field” of participants. 

The Labor ticket is the first be publicly announced ahead of the October 24 elections, which will be conducted by postal ballot. 

While she is yet to reveal her ticket publicly, Lord Mayor Sally Capp is expected to run alongside Cr Nicholas Reece as her deputy, with Cr Kevin Louey understood to have earned a place on the ticket. 

Deputy Lord Mayor Arron Wood is also yet to formally reveal his plans, with the futures of fellow incumbent councillors from former Lord Mayor Robert Doyle’s team Beverley Pinder and Susan Riley also unknown. Cr Jackie Watts is expected to run again on Gary Morgan’s ticket. 

Cr Philip Le Liu is expected to run first on a Liberal Party ticket, while long-term Greens Cr Rohan Leppert will go around for another term. However, it’s understood his colleague Cathy Oke will not be recontesting •

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