ALP announces citywide ticket
Labor Party endorses candidates across the City ahead of October council vote.
SIX candidates are set to run on a Labor Party group ticket across all three City of Ballarat council wards in this year’s municipal elections.
The alliance includes three well known faces like sitting councillors Des Hudson and Daniel Moloney, and former Member for Buninyong, and Ballarat mayor, Geoff Howard.
They are joined by three local politics newcomers including Australian Catholic University campus dean Bridget Aitchison, Frolic Festival organiser Jay Morrison and politics lecturer Kumuda Simpson.
The Labor Party has endorsed two candidates in each ward. Cr Hudson and Ms Aitchison in the South, Ms Simpson and Mr Howard in Central, and Cr Moloney and Mr Morrison in North Ward.
With Labor Party rules for local government elected officials saying that councillors should only caucus on leadership issues, like choosing the mayor, Cr Hudson said the group ticket was as much about being open and honest with voters as it was about trying to win majority control of council.
“It’s a change from the last five council election cycles that I’ve been a part of,” said the incumbent South Ward councillor.
“The aim is absolutely about openness and transparency and to give the voters of Ballarat a clear choice in saying who people stand for and to disclose any party affiliations. The six of us are being open and upfront from the very start.
“The challenge is there for everyone who stands to be transparent with the voters, not only those who are paid up members but those who are also closely aligned with and receiving support in terms of assistance with their campaign.”
While the party has endorsed six people across the City, current North Ward representative, Cr Moloney, said it was going to be a challenge for him to get re-elected, let alone see a further four more ALP aligned candidates land a seat at the council table and take majority control of council.
“I think it’s going to be a big ask to get a big number of our candidates up in the first place,” he said.
“I’m genuinely worried about my own chances from the sense that I’m not one of the high-profile, vocal councillors. I tend to work hard more behind the scenes.
“That might just sound like a line, but I know I’m going to have a battle of my life ahead of me because I suspect there’ll be a big field running in North Ward.”
Should the ticket result in five or more of the ALP candidates getting elected, Cr Moloney said that wouldn’t mean the Party would, or could, exercise control over decision making.
In fact, the Local Government Act and councillor code of conduct supposedly forbid that from taking place.
“Even if you did somehow get a majority of people up, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get a consistent approach to voting,” he said.
“I think Des and I have a pretty good record of not voting the same way, and we’re not required to either.”
Of the new faces putting their hand up for a council run, Kumuda Simpson in Central Ward could be considered the most politically aware.
A university lecturer in politics, she said that behind her decision to run was the advice she would often give to her students.
“For years I was teaching politics and I had students coming to me asking what they could do to make a difference and my advice was always start locally,” she said. “Get involved in your community in whatever way you could.
“For me it was working on a book on climate change and I just felt the same kind of despair that my students felt. I was chatting to my husband one night and he was like, ‘that advice you give to your students all the time is to get involved’.”
The issues Ms Simpson sees as important to the city include municipal services and the environment.
“I put my hand up so I can try and have an influence on things like ensuring our services are the best they can be for the people who need them,” she said.
“I believe if we pay attention to climate change and sustainability principals and build green space into our cities then that has a huge impact on people’s health and wellbeing.”
In South Ward Cr Hudson is being joined on the hustings by ACU campus dean Bridget Aitchison.
Like Cr Hudson, she took aim at the idea of independent councillors not actually being truly independent.
“We’ve had some issues with council in that a couple of the independents have voted pretty much down the line of the Liberal agenda,” she said. “My personal view is that it’s local council, party is not really supposed to come into it, but the reality is it always does, in every council, you can’t avoid it.”
When it comes to her campaign, Ms Aitchison said there were some key issues that she’d like to look at including growth, sustainability and recreational faculties in South Ward.
“That south-west development, we need to ensure the infrastructure stays ahead of the growth,” she said.
“Environmental sustainability is another really important issue. The work that we’ve done over the last year-and-a-half really says that environmental sustainability is a key component of liveability.
“In South Ward there are pockets where the facilities don’t quite come up to needs. Sporting and recreation facilities. There needs to be improvements made there.”
Across town in North Ward, employment and the city’s economy are a focus for Jay Morrison.
His decision to run for council comes off the back of community involvement in efforts like the Committee for Ballarat North, Food Is Free, the city’s Frolic Festival and a push to establish a tool library.
“I think we need more jobs in Ballarat,” he said. “We need councillors who’ll put our community first by fighting for local workers and local industry.
“If elected I’d campaign to develop a council jobs plan that doesn’t just focus on tourism and the visitor economy but invests in healthcare, education, and manufacturing industries.”
Outside of Crs Moloney and Hudson, Geoff Howard is probably the next most recognisable name on the ticket.
He spent nearly 20 years in the State’s Legislative Assembly as the Member for Ballarat East before the electorate was turned in the current seat of Buninyong.
Yet before that he cut his teeth in local politics, serving three terms on a pre-amalgamation Ballarat City council in the late-80s and early 90s, including a stint as mayor.
Mr Howard said his return to civic duty was driven by a desire to improve the City.
“There’s a number of issues at council that concerned me, that was before the concern about the chief executive officer, so clearly there have been a number of other issues that have shown someone of my experience could make a significant contribution,” he said.
“Interestingly enough the acting chief executive Janet Dore was my last chief executive officer when I left the City of Ballarat. So there are some things go around.”
With almost thirty years of political experience, Mr Howard said the Labor ticket set for Octobers election was made up of a good mix of candidates.
“In any level of government it’s always very important you have some people with experience and that you also have some new people who have new ideas to offer,” he said.
Statewide municipal elections, including for the City of Ballarat will take place in October. The ballot will be conducted via post, with vote counting set to begin on 24 October. The current City council will begin a period of caretaker mode one month before.