The City of Boroondara resolved on 7 November 2016 to not appoint a representative to the Municipal Association of Victoria the peak body for local government in Victoria (MAV) owing to concerns regarding serious governance deficiencies at the MAV and has nothing to do with gender.

Ratepayers pay in excess of $60,000 per year to be a member on the basis that the MAV is to advocate for the local government sector and represent its interests in dealing with state and federal governments. With membership comes the opportunity to nominate a representative.

As a newly elected Council, Councillors have had to make a choice. Consistent with the Council resolution in August last year which stated that Council was “reluctantly” renewing its membership, Council resolved on 7 November to not appoint a representative to the MAV.

Since this time there has been media interest in Council’s decision. Unfortunately, some observers have alleged that the basis for Council’s decision reflects gender bias because the previous representative was a female.

There is simply no basis for the allegations of gender bias at Boroondara Council, a Council which has 5 female and 5 male councillors, 3 female and 3 male members of its executive team and who has elected Cr Coral Ross as Mayor three times.

Cr Thompson probably expressed the views of all councillors when he said,

“I am deeply offended with the allegations that I am part of a Council that is biased against women. I have two young daughters, daughters that I want to grow up as strong and independent women. I shouldn’t have to explain such falsehoods to my daughters and yet I find myself and my colleagues have become easy targets for others pursuing different agendas.“

There are inherent conflicts between the MAV attempts to prop up its revenue through reliance on commercial enterprises while at the same time discharging its obligation to provide the best possible outcomes for its local government members. We have written to the Minister for Local Government to ask that the current review of the Local Government Act removes these conflicts.

This decision is about one thing and one thing only – it is about our deep concerns regarding the performance of the Board and the administration of the MAV. This is perhaps best reflected in the MAV’s resistance to an independent review by the Auditor-General’s office and the damning report highlighting serious governance deficiencies.

These deficiencies occurred under a Board which has been in place for quite some time and it is this Council’s view that the only way to rectify such deep-seated problems is to replace the entire board and the leadership of the administration.

The truth lies in the culture of the Board and the MAV leadership which resulted in the Auditor General’s report and that message needs to be heard.

We are so concerned with the functioning of the MAV Mutual Insurance Scheme we have requested the Victorian Auditor General investigate the scheme including the determination of the insurance premiums applied to different members, the proportion of funds distributed to the MAV and the margin taken by the insurer.

Let us stay focused on the very serious matter of the performance of the MAV.

Cr Phillip Healey

Boroondara Mayoral Blog