Council gdominatedG by voting bloc

A ‘VOTING bloc’ of Latrobe City Councillors has been accused of failing to provide “quality representation” for locals on carbon tax issues.

In its response to the Victorian Electoral Submission’s preliminary report reviewing Latrobe City’s municipal boundaries, the Moe and District Residents Association and Traralgon Community Development Association tabled a series of carbon tax-related decisions council has recently made, claiming they indicated an ALP-aligned voting bloc has refused to risk “coming into conflict with the Federal Labor Government”.

The submission, which pushed for a new five-ward model to provide “better governance in Latrobe City”, also showed a table of Latrobe City mayors elected since 2000 and claimed that, of the 14, “eleven were elected courtesy of the ALP voting bloc rotating the position of mayor through the ranks of bloc participants”.

According to MADRA and the TCDA, the voting bloc is “one of political association” which has “dominated” Latrobe City for at least 12 years and is “an entrenched characteristic” of council’s current single-councillor ward model.

The submission claimed “poor decisions” by this voting bloc had “sorely disadvantaged” Latrobe City communities throughout the municipality.

Not all councillors participating in the bloc identified by MADRA and TCDA were “necessarily card carrying members of the ALP”, the submission said, but “once elected or re-elected they join with the ALP-dominated caucus and its control of council decision-making and are duly rewarded with the opportunities such participation affords”.

According to tables of voting patterns on carbon-related issues, crs Darrel White, Lisa Price, Bruce Lougheed, Graeme Middlemiss and Ed Vermuelen have, for the most part, voted together on “carbon-tax related matters” – though there were several examples where members of the alleged bloc had not voted uniformly.

The issues identified related to Latrobe City’s approaches to both the federal and state governments seeking commitments to assist the region in its transition to a low-carbon economy.

MADRA secretary Cheryl Wragg used the content of her organisation’s submission as evidence there was a “strong argument” the nine single councillor ward model in Latrobe City was “now noncompliant with the Local Government Act”.

She said under the Act voters were entitled “to achieve fair and equitable representation”.

Council has declined to comment on the content of submissions until the final VEC report is complete.