The Greens are close to tightening their grip on political power in the basket-weaving enclave of inner Melbourne with Olivia Ball set to become the city’s 104th Lord Mayor at local government elections on 21 October.
The whiff of musky patchouli oil from these twenty-first-century solar socialists already pervades their stranglehold on the federal and state seats of Melbourne.
The ALP abandoned its legacy heartland in the hipster “progressive” inner suburbs when the party’s strategic lightweights miscalculated that the best way to wrest the high moral ground from the Greens was to attempt an outflanking from the Left. And Jesus wept!
With the Light on the Hill all but extinguished in the trendy inner suburb terraces – and even housing commission estates – the residential vote has fractured with new growth sprouting in CBD and Docklands high-rise apartments and the transient overseas student dormitory dog boxes that pass for accommodation in the grandly named “Knowledge Precinct”.
Town versus gown Melbourne City Council elections were once genteel easy-to-read contests where the dominant business vote in the CBD far outweighed the demographics of the sturdy proles and smelly studes starving in pigeon garrets.
In the days when card councillors were directly elected to proportionally represent the ratepayers in personal polling on a weekday during business hours, life was simple. Now it has been complicated by the whirr of computer-generated postal vote-harvesting programs aimed at absentee landlords based in Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur the outcome is far less predictable.
When Henry Condell was elected Melbourne’s first mayor on December 9 1842, he would have shaken the hand of all the free white men who quill-penned his name onto the electoral roll to represent them as the Gipps Ward alderman (he owned a pub in Little Collins Street). Subsequently, they also elected him the first Member for the Town of Melbourne in the New South Wales Legislative Council.
If, as expected, the Grrrs Frau Ball walks away with the storied possum cloak and chains of office regalia of Marvellous Melbourne next on October 22, she will personally know only a tiny fraction of the 134,000 voters on the electoral roll.
That’s because only 55,000 are residents living in the City of Melbourne (Parkville, Kensington, North Melbourne, Carlton, Melbourne, Port Melbourne, Docklands, Southbank and South Yarra, should you ask).
The Grrrs have never had a Lord Mayor elected in any Australian capital city before but Frau Ball is “cautiously optimistic” they could win the lord mayoralty (thus making her Ball mit chain, boom! boom!). “We came very close last time,” she says.
Indeed, the incumbent Lord Mayor Robert Doyle defeated Dr Adam Bandt, the Grrrs’ recently re-elected Federal MHR for Melbourne, for the top job in 2008. The Grrrs’ federal leader Senator Richard Di Natale and state MLA for Melbourne, the most appropriately named Ellen Sandell, have also tilted at the Melbourne City Council windmill.
So just what are Olivia Ball’s qualifications to run an annual budget of $497.77 million and the commercial heart of what is set to become the nation’s biggest city in coming years?
Well, she’s “Melbourne born and bred with a deep love of this city” and that should be enough to carry her through the local bunyip aristocracy’s ornate ceremony to crown her as queen of the annual Moomba parade festival.
However, to be the Lord Mayor of the City of Melbourne may require just a smidgeon more expertise than Frau Ball has amassed as a trained child psychologist; and a lifetime’s work experience as an advocate for not-for-profit refugee, women’s and child rights organisations.
For what it’s worth, Olivia holds a first-class master’s degree in human rights from University College London (where they have just proudly announced the establishment of the new Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership) and a PhD in human rights from Monash Law School.
Neither of these higher degrees qualifies her to fly a jumbo jet let alone run the City of Melbourne.
Doyle has also nominated the Die Grünen as his biggest threat. He points to significant jobs growth in the central city over his time as mayor with the revenue generated in Melbourne City Council’s 38-square-kilometres going from $70 billion to $91 billion a year since he started in 2008.
But the Grrrs are not interested in jobs growth. They just want to ban cars, power-down the Melbourne CBD by closing down the brown coal-fired power stations that keep the city’s lights burning; and to “occupy” empty apartment buildings with the homeless.
As Lord Mayor “she would bring an indefatigable vigour to implementing the Greens’ alternative vision for Melbourne, emphasising the urgent demands of climate change and sustainability, social equity, democracy and human rights”.
Be careful what you wish for…
Terence Maher is a former editor of The Melbourne Times
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