Ombudsman Report - Letter to the Age

To the Editor,

It is an open secret in our community that Councillors at Brimbank have been acting in an abusive, self interested way for a very long time, often under the direction of external influences from within the Labor Party.

The recently released Ombudsman’s report into Brimbank Council has found that the ‘ruling faction’ in the previous Council ensured a culture of dysfunction and bullying.

The report also found that this is unlikely to have changed very much as evidenced by members of the newly elected Council including Sam David, Troy Atanosovski, Robert Shamon, Tran Siu, Heidi Seitz, Maria Kiselis, acting with external direction from Sam Tabban, Telmo Languiller and George Seitz to form a new ruling faction and decide the Mayoralty within hours of the November 2008 election. As a new Greens Councillor my observation would be that while the bullying and abuse no longer occurs, the modis operandi has not changed.

The amazing thing to me is that while they have been operating in this way, with no thought to the community interest or to the responsibility they have been charged with to act in a morally and ethically responsible manner, the Labor Party then and now, seem to be only concerned with having been caught red handed.

Dick Gross (The Age, 12/5/09) says “it is absolutely legitimate to organise to increase a group's political power”…I agree with him. There is no problem with groups of people getting together to organise and put forward a point of view. But that is not what we are talking about at Brimbank. We are talking about individuals, using vulnerable groups to stack political party branches. Rather than excusing it because “everyone does it”, I rather think it emphasises that we need to be looking to build a genuine alternative for Brimbank.

We know the Liberals are not that alternative. Look at what they have done to workers rights, the sell off of our public infrastructure and enterprises so we no longer have the power to protect ourselves from financial and environmental crisis, and lets not forget that they too participate in branch stacking.

There is also a problem with those councillors taking decisions in the chamber just because they are part of a faction and not being open to listen to arguments put to them by the community and being able to make their own independent decisions based on robust discussion and debate.

Brimbank residents have been deprived of community infrastructure projects over a long period of time in order to accommodate pressure from these councillors, MP’s and Labor party hacks voting purely and simply to advance their own personal or factional interests.

This has meant that one of the most economically disadvantaged areas in Melbourne has suffered with gross neglect for our parks, community services and facilities.

We cannot rely on the Labor party to fix this mess. It is nonsense to say the Minister for Local Government will do anything when his office has refused to take action up until now. Every Labor MP and heavy weight in this area is implicated - right up to Mr Brumby who relies on these players for his power base.

Sacking the Council is only part of the solution. And one that the Labor party would find very convenient. We have to ask, “What then”? Would an administrator appointed by the very people who have refused to investigate the problems be likely to find a genuine solution?

We need to call for an extraordinary election to elect people from and for the community of Brimbank. Our community needs to stand up to these bullies and stand genuine and endorsed candidates in an immediate election, and let the people of Brimbank decide.

Geraldine Brooks
Greens Councillor
Brimbank Council

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