Tags: greg barber

25 Oct 2008, Comments Off on Killing off the grass roots

Killing off the grass roots

Author: Helen

Many people who begin a career in local politics start by being passionate about an issue. They stand for Council to try to make a difference. Others are political timeservers and seat warmers who are using the place as a stepping stone to bigger things. Many in my state, Victoria, never met a developer they didn’t like.

If you’re thinking of becoming one of the passionate issue-driven ones, now you can forget about it. Under a proposed amendment to the Local Government act, making a submission on any topic in, it seems, any forum, disqualifies a councillor from voting on measures related to that topic. Greens MLC Greg Barber:

Councillors can be banned from voting on any Council matter if they have previously chosen to:

(ii) make an objection or submission in relation to the matter.
* It doesn’t have to be a submission you made to the Council you are running for. If you made a submission to a state government review, your Council forming its position on the same review could be seen to be the same ‘matter’.
* It’s irrelevant what you said in your submission, whether for, against or neutral on a proposal. Writing the submission automatically gives you a conflict of interest.
* It doesn’t have to be a personal submission. You could be an office bearer of a group or other entity and be held responsible for the submission your group made.

Example: Katherine is a local councillor and also the Treasurer of the local Landcare group, who wrote a submission to the Minister for Water on a proposal to declare certain wetlands as protected. Later, the Minister writes to Katherine’s council asking them for their position on the matter. Katherine can’t vote.

* It could be a verbal submission you made by speaking at a council meeting. It doesn’t matter what you said, because the only necessary action is that you made a submission.
* It’s retrospective. Any submission you made in the past could knock you out of voting at any time on the future.

Example: Ian made a submission to his council’s proposed by-law on footpath trading rules. Some time later he is elected to council. Five years after the law was first created, Council considers running a review of the law. Councillor Ian can’t even vote on whether or not to review the law because he made a submission on the original version.

(H/T to Kieran Bennett).

This means that everyone who’s ever spoken out on forests, water policy, Alpine grazing, toxic waste dumps next to housing developments or any other debatable topic is muzzled from here on in, and everyone who hasn’t is prevented from making submissions or otherwise speaking out in the future.

It occurs to me that every time Councils vote, someone has to find out exactly who has ever made a submission on each motion, and as shown above, there’s a multiplicity of fora that have to be searched. For each Council member. Who’s going to do this work? Who pays for this?

Welcome to Victoria: government by time servers, seat warmers and people who endorse big projects and inappropriate development – but have been careful not to make any noise about it.
Crossposted at Road to Surfdom

11 Oct 2008, Comments Off on Colleen Hartland’s decriminalisation diary: Bill passed without amendments!

Colleen Hartland’s decriminalisation diary: Bill passed without amendments!

Author: Helen

Update from Colleen Hartland last night:

The Abortion Law Reform Bill has passed through both houses of Victorian Parliament without amendment, and will therefore become law.

After the second reading, a large number of amendments were proposed, which I feared would create a law that would take away women’s rights, and perhaps even lead to women being forced into illegal back yard abortions.

The amendments related to some reasons for abortion were more valid than others, reducing a woman’s right to choose from 24 weeks, to 14 weeks or 12 weeks, bringing in various different types of doctors to make the decision for the woman, and so on. I voted against each of the amendments.

I hope you will forgive me for not giving detail about my reasons for my vote on each of the amendments – it has been a long week, and we sat until 3am last night. If you’d like more information, please check Hansard when it is published overnight – Sue Pennicuik MLC gave reasons on behalf of the three Greens MPs, with Greg Barber clarifying our position a couple of times. Please also have a look at Sue Pennicuik’s speeches in the second reading debate late last night.

I am happy to say that all of the amendments lost by a greater margin than the second reading vote.

We were then asked to vote one final time on the Bill as a whole. The Bill finally passed, with 23 MPs voting in favour, and 17 against. I’ll give you three guesses how I voted!

It was quite an emotional moment, and an incredible relief. The pro choice campaigners spilled out of the public gallery to join the pro choice MPs in Queen’s Hall, and there was a great deal of hugging, a few tears and bizarrely enough, whispering until suddenly one of the women started applauding and everyone took up the applause. It was very emotional to see long standing pro choice campaigners like Jo Wainer, Marilyn Beaumont and others standing together with Candy Broad MLC (ALP) whose brave attempt to introduce a private member’s bill last year paved the way for the government bill that finally passed, and Andrea Coote (Libs) whose brilliant analysis and skill was so influential before and during the debate. It was lovely to see women from different political parties hugging. There were so many amazing women present, I’m afraid I have neglected to mention some – Leslie Cannold, the womens health organisations. Earlier in the day, former Premier Joan Kirner was present, and Carolyn Hirsh. Joan got a feminist guard of honour when she walked out the back door at Parliament House, after the Bill passed second reading, and a special round of applause tonight.

I would like to thank you for the part that you played in decriminalising abortion. You have engaged in the process. You have written to one or more MPs, using respectful language, giving information and inspiration that has assisted this result. Some of you have shared life stories that have touched my heart. I am grateful for each of the emails that you have sent. I am sure that the result would have been different, if you had not become involved.

No, thank you, Colleen. I wasn’t the one sitting up till dawn listening to Bernie Finn waffle on for six hours .

This is the first time I have sent updates during a parliament process. I felt that it was the right thing to do, as so many people urged me to vote for abortion law reform, and I felt a duty to report back to let you know the result of your contribution, without making you wait for a week during a long debate.

Throughout the debate, pro choice MPs from different political parties worked together, with assistance and advice. I feel that the conscience vote brought out the best in all of us.

Emervents has blogged Colleen’s emails here, here, and here, and she has also provided a list of email addresses and a sample letter to thank all the MLCs who voted for the Bill.

A big thank you to Colleen. Now have a big sleep in!

I’d also like to thank the “Tell the Truth coalition” and their sympathisers for completely alienating and disgusting many waverers in the Parliament and helping to convince them that the anti-choicers weren’t presenting a logical or sane position. Great work, guys!