Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

The first weeks as a Socialist Party Councillor

Reading Time: 3 minutes

We have decided that concrete victories for ordinary people in the area are the most important goals. At the first (and last for 2004) Council meeting of the new councillors last Tuesday I moved a motion to establish a short-term Youth Services Committee to report-back in 2005 on dramatically improving the lives of young people in this part of Melbourne.

I, along with the two other left wing Councillors (ALP’s Annabel Barbour and Green’s Kathleen Malthzaan) were eleted to run the committee along with young people in the area, Council officers, and youth service providers. I expect to be elected Chair of this Committee at its first meeting.

I told Council on Tuesday to expect a demand from this committee that next (financial) years’ budget cough up resources for Yarra to have Australia’s best youth services.

The Socialist Party’s position on the horrendous development for Smith Street, Collingwood planned by the infamous Banco developers was also accepted at last weeks Council meeting; that is to agree to give Banco a few more weeks to come back to Council with new plans. Their first plans included 150 matchbox units, a massive car park, a supermarket and two 11 story blocks on Smith Street!

More importantly we have decided to organise a massive public meeting for mid to late February at Fitzroy or Collingwood Town Hall so that local people can get their voices heard on this issue and get mobilised.

I moved, and Kathleen Maltzhan seconded, a motion on transport first penned by the Public Transport Users Association and the Campaign for a Better City Melbourne and agreed to during the election campaign by 5 of the 9 elected Councillors. It calls for active opposition by Council to the road lobby and the extension of the Eastern Freeway and the serious funding of a new alliance of groups active on this issue to lead the fightback against greater car use, air pollution, and more roads.

The motion was deferred until the February meeting of Council where there will be the mother of all battles on this issue. We look with interest at how the other Councillors will vote on the motion, especially the Greens Jenny Farrar and Gurm Sekron.

There has been a massive amount of media locally about our victory. It has had the effect of boosting the confidence of many workers and activists. It shows that socialist ideas and policies can gain support. Many are hoping that the gains we hope to make can make socialism even more real and attractive to ordinary people.

I have been elected onto various internal (to Council) and external committees including the committee looking into the future of Collingwood Football Club’s Victoria Park. I have spent a lot of time answering and acting on bread and butter issues of local people who have contacted me for help eg on traffic management, dog poo, fee increases at the leisure centers, support for neighbourhood houses, noise issues and many more.

The Socialist Party in Melbourne have elected Erinn Sales and Rob Frost plus me onto a Council sub-committee of the party to help with the day-to-day political and organisational decisions I have to make. We report back to the branches and National Committee and are under their ultimate control.

The Socialist Party is well aware of the history of the workers’ movement where elected officials, without the check of their comrades and the working class, can drift away from the ideas of struggle, solidarity and socialism.

Every few months, three councillors are elected onto the Internal Development Appeals Committee, which deals with all planning applications that receive 5 or more objections. Unfortunately for me I have been rostered straight away. At the first meeting last Wednesday I successfully argued for the knocking back of a plan for three $1 million+ houses in historic Gore Street that on at least 4 grounds didn’t meet Yarra’s planning guidelines. I did, however, move to accept a development for a small Buddist temple on Elizabeth Street, North Richmond.

This Tuesday at Melbourne’s Trades Hall I will be speaking at a Socialist Party public meeting on why and how we won the seat, and what it all means for the next 4 years. Come along and join us afterwards for end of year drinks.

By Stephen Jolly


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