By Shane Scanlan
The interest in this month’s City of Melbourne council election is not whether or not Robert Doyle’s team wins but, rather, wins by what margin.
After eight years in the job, the Lord Mayor has made the role his own. And, while there are plenty of people who’d love to see the back of him, he’s left them precious little to campaign on.
Cr Doyle has taken oxygen from potential fires by running very hard and consistently for a long time. He’s been progressive on social issues, supportive of business and aggressive and intolerant towards those who want to debate trivial matters.
Above all, he’s been clearly seen as a champion for Melbourne. And that’s probably all that most people expect from a lord mayor.
And, while being an effective salesman for Melbourne is probably his only achievement over the journey, it’s also probably enough.
In a policy sense, his achievements are that he has performed so well that he has left his opponents bereft of a platform for attack.
There are sectional interests contesting the October 22 election such as those campaigning on perceived problems with the council’s plan to redevelop the Queen Victoria Market and others offering themselves as heritage advocates. In truth, the Greens may have the most comprehensive policy offering.
There are others won’t stand because they complain that no one is interested. But, again, if Robert Doyle had messed things up over his last two terms, there would be plenty of interest in this election.
Team Doyle is far deeper and more rounded than ever. Practical conservationist Arron Wood has been promoted to the deputy lord mayoral position (potentially to be groomed for bigger and better things?). Campaign-donations-collector Kevin Louey is still heading the councillor ticket, one has to assume because of his Chinese connections and fund-raising capacity as he is the worst performer in the chamber.
The next position has been gifted to Labor Party prince Nicholas Reece who broadens the team considerably and brings the policy development potential to seriously challenge the unelected fat cats who wield the real power at the town hall.
Cr Doyle has brought a glittering but untested star into his third councillor spot. Tessa Sullivan’s CV shows she is one of those “could be anything” young people. Why would she bother being a councillor?
Deeper on the ticket are councillors Susan Riley and Beverley Pinder-Mortimer. Each with rusted-on personal followers, particularly in the business community, they could ensure Team Doyle wins the majority it is seeking.
Other councillors will be doing all they can to prevent Team Doyle getting more than the five it currently enjoys. Although it is a long time ago, many can recall the John So days when the chamber was more a rubber stamp than a place for ideas and debate.
All sitting councillors have now declared the interest in the contest.
Cr Ken Ong is contesting the lord mayorality, not so much because he can win, but because he will be able to establish “bigger-L-than-Doyle-Liberal” Philip Le Liu as a councillor and a blocker of Doyle excesses.
Cr Ong has also worked very hard during his last two terms and has been very visible in the community. Cr Ong’s second-position councillor candidate is Southbank Residents Group president Tony Penna.
Cr Jackie Watts hopes to benefit from Gary Morgan’s lord mayoral aspirations.
The Greens are a fully organised outfit with both lord mayoral and councillor candidates.
Cr Richard Foster is running without a lord mayoral candidate. Instead, he is running two teams of two, with Brooke Wandin heading up the other councillor ticket.
Cr Stephen Mayne is also running without a lord mayoral candidate and has teamed up with Docklands Chamber of Commerce president Johanna Maxwell.
When nominations closed on September 20, there were seven teams contesting the lord mayoralty: The Greens (Olivia Ball and Roxane Ingleton), Team Doyle (Robert Doyle and Arron Wood), Phil Cleary and Junxi Su, Team Morgan (Gary Morgan and Michael O’Brien), Strengthening Melbourne (Ron Hunt and Doone Clifton), The Light on the Hill Team (Anthony Van Der Craats and Yunli Han) and Together Melbourne (Ken Ong and Sue Morphet).
Nominations for the nine council positions have been received from 43 candidates.
They are: Michael Caiafa ; Wesa Chau; Fiona Creedy; Ben Curnow; Luke Downing; Marcus Fielding; Farida Fleming; Adam Munro Ford; Richard Foster; Nicolas Frances Gilley; Luke James; Michael Kennedy; Rohan Leppert; Jing Li; Philip Le; Kevin Louey; Robin Matthews; Johanna Maxwell; Stephen Mayne; Cathy Oke; Tony Penna; Beverley Pinder-Mortimer; Jenny Pitts; Alice Poon; Bruce Poon; Neil Pringle; Nicholas Reece; Susan Riley; Apsara Sabaratnam; Sebastian Saggio; Joseph Sarraf; Sergey Sizenko; Roger Smith; Sue Stanley; Tessa Sullivan; Suzanne Vale; Bridie Walsh; Brooke Wandin; Jim Ward; Jackie Watts; Hope Wei; Sallyann Wilson and Barbara Yerondais.
Now that nominations are closed, the real politics starts. With Team Doyle being the team to beat, it is expected that most others will try to preference Cr Doyle and co last.
The next week will see all the preference deals being done, with the frantic period immediately before noon on Monday, September 26.