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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31750

FRAN BAILEY (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence) (10:13 AM) —I feel like saying `correct weight' at the end of my colleague's speech. I rise today to bring to the attention of the House a very serious matter that has been raised in my electorate. Last night in the township of Whittlesea, around 120 people gathered to voice their concern at what the local council, the City of Whittlesea, is doing to the ratepayers. In particular, I am referring to the residents of Eden Park. This dispute has had a long history, and it started with the City of Whittlesea arbitrarily deciding, with absolutely no consultation, that they would seal a number of these largely country roads and the residents would pay the cost. The residents were never consulted as to whether they wanted this to happen. The council simply made a decision.

We managed to stop them, and before the last state election the City of Whittlesea agreed that they would cease all implementation of this road user charge scheme, and in particular stage 4 of the Eden Park scheme, until there had been a reform of the Local Government Act in Victoria. Residents accepted this at face value. Independent councillor Allan Cann is the only one who really speaks up for the residents of Whittlesea. Council has sent a letter out to every resident in Eden Park telling them that they are going ahead with this scheme. They have broken their promise—they said that they would wait until the local government act had been reformed. In this letter they have had the absolute audacity to say that the resident must vote yes or no but, if a resident does not return the letter—and there are many people there whose first language is not English—that is counted as a yes. That is an interesting way for the democratic process to work. I have never heard of this before and yet this council claims to represent these people.

I think that this is an absolute disgrace, and so did all of the 120 people who attended the public meeting in Whittlesea last night. At the meeting they moved three motions: (1) that council delay implementation of its special charge scheme at Eden Park until, at least, the policy on special charge scheme guidelines is released by the state government, (2) that in the interim residents of Eden Park vote no to the Eden Park stage 4 possible road improvements special charge scheme and (3) that a committee be formed to pursue these matters with council and the state government reporting back to the meeting of local residents, known as COWRA, in one months time.

This entire debacle has simply been a bunch of local councillors trying to ride roughshod over the wishes of local ratepayers. These councillors have forgotten the most basic rule of elected representation: they were elected to represent all of the residents, all of the ratepayers. This council have set their sights on a particular course of action and, come what may, they want to implement this road user charge scheme. This is not good enough. It is simply not on. It is about time that this council realised that the 120 people gathering in Whittlesea last night to protest against this was just the start. This is going to spread. We are not going to allow these councillors to get away with such completely undemocratic practices. They owe it to all the people they represent to call a halt, admit that they are on the wrong path, admit that they have broken a promise that they made before the last state election, admit that they have to honour their promise and their responsibility and cease this futile exercise that is damaging so many of their local ratepayers. (Time expired)