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The Victorian Electoral Commission is presently undertaking a representation review of the City of Greater Geelong Council. The fact that the VEC is only looking into the number of councillors and ward structures and not the method by which the Mayor is elected is a missed opportunity.
In 2010 the Victorian Coalition made an election commitment to introduce a directly elected Mayor for Geelong. Upon coming to office the then Parliamentary Secretary for Local Government David Morris conducted an extensive consultation process around Geelong regarding the introduction of the directly elected Mayoral model.
The consultation showed wide spread support for the introduction of a directly elected Mayor as well as strong support for the current ward based structure for the election of Councillors. The legislation that was introduced in 2011 to facilitate the directly elected Mayor took on board the community consultation by keeping the present ward structures and placing a directly elected Mayor on top of that.
The same legislation also allowed for a review of the City of Greater Geelong prior to the 2016 general election. The review will certainly examine issues such as the total number of councillors, ward boundaries, single or multi councillor wards, or whether we have no wards at all.
Given that this review is now taking place it is illogical for that review to not also examine the method by which the Mayor is elected. It is clear that there are issues with the present mayoral model and the review should flesh these out.
Should Geelong have the same system as Melbourne where the Mayor and Deputy Mayor are elected on a ticket so that the Mayor would have a loyal deputy that does not seek to undermine them? Should Mayoral candidates be able to run a ticket with like-minded councillors who share the same vision?
Directly elected Mayoral candidates, irrespective of their political backgrounds will all wish to articulate a vison for Geelong. Upon election one would expect the Mayor to be able to enact that vision for Geelong much like a Premier or Prime Minister would at a State or Federal level.
The present factionalised system on Council struggles to allow the implementation of the Mayor’s vision so the electoral review of the City of Greater Geelong must be extended to examine this important issue.