Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Why vote independent in Rucker?

Well, first of all you need to be sure that you're actually voting independent, but independents - particularly those with a track record on local issues - can play a real role in delivering you a better Council. Some people ask what one independent Councillor can possibly achieve, when he or she can be easily out-voted by the rest of Council. Unfortunately, that argument applies equally well to any minority group on Council - be it Labor Left, Greens or other independents.

An independent can in fact work with other progressive Councillors to bring cumulative pressure, and perhaps a decisive vote on particular issues. That is, Councillors can work with other Councillors on the merits of an issue, rather than on blind political alignment.

What's also true is that an independent can open up Council to the community. It's much harder for other Councillors to close down community perspectives on issues when residents have support from within Council itself. An independent Councillor can focus community concern in a highly visible way, and even draw increased media attention to issues that aren't receiving a proper airing.

Taking public question time as an example, it will be harder for awkward questions to be avoided, or to be quickly wound up, if there is a supportive Councillor sitting in the Chamber. The same goes for Council debates, which might actually become open and public discussions with an independent present. Quick meetings aren't always good meetings if important issues get swept under the carpet.

At present, all our Darebin Councillors are right-wing Labor. There aren't any Labor Left candidates, no Greens, and no independents such as myself. What kind of advocacy do you think you're going to get when your only representative on Council belongs to the same faction as all the other Councillors, and, indeed, to the same faction as your local MPs and the Premier? Advocacy on bad developments, on climate, a stance on roads, or on child-care is simply beyond them.

The trouble is, you won't read that much in the local papers about genuine independents. You'll read discussion about dummies running only to support their political masters (by all means shine a light on them), the internal squabbles of the Labor Party (who cares?), but not nearly enough about genuine alternatives available to voters in these elections, and in particular the alternative I'm offering in Rucker ward.

From the outset of this campaign, I have put my policies up-front, offered even my broader views so residents could know exactly what they'll be getting should I be elected. I have also been completely transparent about my preferences, putting these online before they were even made public by the Victorian Electoral Commission.

I invite you to consider just how much you know about any of the other candidates - Labor, Green or claimed independents. Do they answer your calls and emails? Do they respond to surveys on important issues? You'll find all my responses to surveys online here at this blog. In that way, I have tried to be as responsive to residents' questions and concerns as I would be if elected to Council to represent Rucker ward.

While there is a tendency to dismiss independents as minor candidates not in the main game, that is simply a matter of voting. Voters decide who is in the main game. Voters decide how they fill in their preferences. Voters decide, when they have wanted support on local issues, just who was there to offer it and advocate on their behalf.

Where were your Labor Councillors and even the Greens candidates on local planning issues? Where were they when the state government wanted to knock down an asbestos-contaminated public housing estate next to a playground without having the decency to properly inform residents? Ask yourselves these questions, and then decide. The new Darebin Council is in your hands - make sure it's a more democratic one that listens to the community.

If you'd like to watch or listen to more about my campaign, there's a brief YouTube video, and my recent interview on Radio 3CR. You are also welcome to contact me via my campaign website, or by calling me on 0404 526 555.

Back to my campaign website

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Comments are most welcome on any of the posts at Northcote Independent. I encourage feedback - positive or negative. Feel free to disagree, but remember that posts are moderated to ensure they are on the topic and in the spirit of open debate, as outlined in my editorial policy.