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Plenty of town hall intrigue to come

10 Nov 2016

Plenty of town hall intrigue to come Image

By Shane Scanlan

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle has been returned for a third term, but he won’t have it all his own way over the next four years.

Despite increasing his lord mayoral primary vote (from 41 per cent to 44 per cent), this support did not translate into the councillor election and he failed to win a majority in the chamber.

Team Doyle has five councillors, the same number it had during the last four years.  This time around, it is without veteran Susan Riley and Beverly Pinder-Mortimer who made way for newcomers Nicholas Reece and Tessa Sullivan.

There are three other new councillors, although one position is subject to a Local Government Inspectorate investigation and is unlikely to be known this year.

As reported on page 3, councillor-elect Brooke Wandin is unlikely to be able to take up her position and her replacement remains uncertain.

Other newcomers are Victoria Market trader Michael Caiafa and Philip Liu.  Also leaving the council are Ken Ong, Richard Foster and Stephen Mayne.

Greens councillors Rohan Leppert and Cathy Oke enjoyed increased support and were returned emphatically this time around.  Cr Jackie Watts was also returned and Cr Arron Wood has been promoted to deputy lord mayor.

Cr Doyle is temporarily enjoying a majority (having a casting vote in the event of a tie) while the inspectorate investigation continues.  But he is going to have to work hard for support once the 11th councillor is known.

His most likely ally will be Philip Liu.  Cr Liu was the unsuccessful Liberal Party candidate in the seat of Melbourne at the July federal election.  He led the “Together Melbourne” councillor ticket under the sponsorship of former planning chair Ken Ong.

Cr Liu will enjoy a powerful position and will likely find himself holding the balance of power on contentious issues.  No doubt Mr Ong will be keeping the lines of communication open.  

Also on Mr Ong’s team, but failing to be elected, was Southbank Residents Association president Tony Penna.  Mr Penna attracted 52 below-the-line votes.

Brand new councillor Michael Caiafa is going to struggle with the town hall politics.  He was elected with a mandate to halt the Queen Victoria Market redevelopment.  Cr Caiafa will have an ally in Jackie Watts, but this could work against him in his dealings with Team Doyle.

He also has a pecuniary interest as a market trader, which will prevent him actually voting on market-related issues. That this was unknown to him before the election is an indication of how much he has to learn about the workings of local government.

Nicholas Reece will learn the ropes more quickly, having spent a career in powerful positions guiding, protecting and advising ALP premiers and prime ministers.  But this is the first time he’s been an actual politician.  And he finds himself in an unholy marriage with an old enemy – former Liberal state opposition leader Robert Doyle. With so many landmines waiting, it will be fascinating to watch his performance.

Another newcomer is Team Doyle’s Tessa Sullivan.  It is yet to emerge what motivates this young, high-achieving mum towards the political realm.

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