Meet the candidates: Melbourne City Council

Meet the candidates: Melbourne City Council

By Kate Streader

Introducing the candidates for Melbourne City Council and their priorities for the community.

Melbourne City Council encompasses Carlton, Carlton North, Docklands, East Melbourne, Flemington, Hotham Hill, Kensington, Melbourne, Melbourne West, North Melbourne, Parkville, Port Melbourne, South Yarra and Southbank. City of Melbourne is broken up into the Leadership Team and nine councillors.

Its current councillors Leadership Team members are Sally Capp (Lord Mayor) and Arron Wood (Deputy Lord Mayor). Councillors are Rohan Leppert, Kevin Louey, Cathy Oke, Jackie Watts, Nicolas Frances Gilley, Philip Le Liu, Nicolas Reece, Beverley Pinder and Susan Riley.

Meet the 2020 candidates for Melbourne City Council below.

Melbourne City Council 

Nine vacancies, 59 candidates.

Fiona Sweetman – Your Melbourne Team

What is your strategy for rebuilding your local community and supporting its small businesses post-lockdown?

I believe that a visitor lens must be part of how we look at anything in Melbourne, destination marketing to workers, locals and nearby visitors is essential. We have been wandering, or stuck at home, and knowing what is really available on the other side of the grid will need a nudge or they will be missed. I believe to support our community, these marketing promotions need to be more than restaurants, but a sensory engagement – eg: where to find groceries, good playgrounds, local doctors, the best view of the sunset, off-leash parks, book launches, or picnic corners, amazing dress shops, and then the walking trails to get there.

Confidence in COVID-safe practices means the city (preferably the state) must have one clear accredited logo that anyone can recognise, and eventually expect, so it just becomes part of the daily habit. Just opening the doors is not enough if there are no people around! We will need marketing to office workers, creating weekly small events that bring people into places, build momentum so that if you missed last week, you can go next week. Educating retailers and vendors who their neighbours are, with precinct gatherings or walkarounds, etc, so they can refer or spruik their neighbours. The success of one won’t be enough, it must be about the success of the strip or precinct. We must give our community reasons to feel safe without demanding commercial exchange, with confidence of being out in our spaces, the transactions will happen with confidence and passion, which then promotes repeat engagement with our small businesses. Many of our city businesses are discretionary spend, so marketing them with more essential activities will be helpful, I believe.

How do you plan to support live music venues in reopening and getting back on their feet post- lockdown?

Live music is such an important asset to the brand and culture of our city. There are many venues that are smaller spaces and indoor only. This is a challenge, so to encourage confidence I would be activating outdoor venues first with clear covid protocols. I would suggest that City of Melbourne assets be offered to venues to use to re-engage with their customers, whilst waiting for indoor protocols to activate. Busking is great for buskers, but not for venues, so I would suggest free branding opportunities for venues and their chosen acts in designated busking spots.

I understand the cost of putting on events can be prohibitive with capacity reductions, so supporting their brands in the meantime with activations, reduced permit requirements and the City-owned music festival to exclusively use local venues will be a start. I believe there is a concern with having lots of musicians in laneway festivals will not help the venues themselves. Once indoor capacities get to a reasonable rate, I would have a summer program of every Wednesday there is music in the city – or something – so that locals start to create a habit, and then visitors can know to keep Wednesday free (or whatever day is chosen).

How important are the arts and live music sectors to you as a prospective councillor and how do you aim to support them?

The arts are a form of education, music too, and to see either live is a physicality that can never be replicated. In this, I am passionately supportive of. Music is a memory maker, the arts are something we react to, both enable our community to thrive, even in small doses, so yes I think they are important for our community.

As a prospective councillor I would continue our busking program, but probably with more rigour, less amplification, and dispersion. I would continue to support the investment in the Melbourne Music Week but with a scholarship for local musicians and an alumni to follow. I would look to the musical talent we already have and ensure there is a diverse age range, genre and accessibility to the arts and our live music scenes, with cultural events that showcase the multicultural stories Melbourne holds. Festivals are one way to engage opportunity, and a minimum quota of local musicians and artists should be part of these events. Fashion Week with recordings is far less fun than a live band and ballet dancers at the welcome hall (for instance). There is already a requirement for local artists to be part of the Lord Mayor’s Commendation ceremony when held in the main room at Town Hall (of which I am a founding committee member) all ceremonial events at Townhall should have this.

Lastly, I would keep an audit of venues, and ensure that we don’t lose any. But, if there are losses, then coucil advocates for new venues to come into this municipality. I am keen on venues for children, adults and the elderly, inclusion on all levels. The arts are important to our wellbeing.

What are your priorities in terms of what you want to achieve for your community as a councillor?

My priorities are to ensure I engage my community beyond this next six months. My priorities are for small business. Not for the detriment of other considerations, but to boost opportunity for more in my city. Melbourne has a very high percentage of small business, they are individuals, and loyal employers. They are diverse and often agile and resilient. Small businesses are also a strong part of what makes a place – a city – visitable, interesting, memorable. Visitors from next door, next suburb, next state will return if there is a sense of character. We must NOT lose that.

Small business success is also a great indicator for larger investors, as they see a diverse community to tap into. Small business and entrepreneurs around them are an important part of the psyche of our Melbourne City and its history, and I want to ensure they remain, and prosper, in the Melbourne of tomorrow. Small business is often existing close to where its proprietor lives, entrepreneurs and residents are encouraged with great education and startup minds (another important asset of Melbourne). I want a municipality that benefits from a Capital City brand, but has room and space, and inspiration in its surrounds to germinate innovation and community. I believe big cities need small business to keep them in touch, accessible, creative, agile and compassionate. Its humanity, we need to find character in capital cities and this exists in spades in small business.

How important is climate action to you and how do you plan to implement it within your council?

If there are any who arrive at council this year who dismiss climate action I will be both shocked and horrified. It is really important for now and future generations. If we build no more and take no more from the ground, and our population does not change, we already must act urgently to support our air, waterways, earth and human health.

Action to me is, at minimum, addressing the amount of waste produced in our city, how to reduce this, but also what we do with it once collected! So I am looking to propose that the City itself engages in developing a recycling facility of at least one kind (organic, glass, plastic, paper?) that our community can have transparent auditing, and measurable results on how the recycled materials are then reused in the Melbourne community. I would be working to the Green Action Plan recently put through council to engage more with state and federal bodies to support this action plan and develop more robust demands of developers and innovators. Green roof projects and runoff management for the health of our rivers are so important.

Managing the green canopy of the city for future generations is also of great concern as our trees in the magnificent parks reach their finality of age. I am an advocate for high-density living, but I am concerned about the lack of minimum ratio of public green space our communities are being offered by current developments or the planning processes currently in play. My climate focus is also on the waterways of our municipality that, in turn, impact others. The health of the Yarra and Maribyrnong Rivers and other water catchments are so fragile. So, I propose parklands with filtering wetlands and natural flora plantings, plus promotions of these and their benefits will encourage our community to engage with nature in new ways, too. The QVM is an important way for local producers to provide sustainably produced food for the community, and I would be keen to see a section there that compliments the organics with a 100Km zone so that the “food miles” are also able to be easily considered by our population. Offering choice will engage the public.

Rabin Bangaar – Animal Justice Party

What is your strategy for rebuilding your local community and supporting its small businesses post-lockdown?

Support promotional funding in the budget targeting the City of Melbourne residents, greater Victoria, interstate and international visitors. Have a robust plan to ensure open spaces, walking tracks and parks are maintained and where communities are lacking these facilities, to work on a plan to implement this. Review the residents and businesses rates revenue strategy to ensure it’s affordable and fair to all. Engage with community groups and small business representatives to work together on solutions for the city. Promote more community-based activities like community gardens and multi-cultural functions.

How do you plan to support live music venues in reopening and getting back on their feet post-lockdown?

Engage with the industry’s interest group to work on a plan together. Support funding to promote this industry in the City of Melbourne. With many people waiting for the restrictions to ease, a review of the opening and closing hours laws to see how we can improve the inflow of revenue to these businesses and thus create more jobs is essential.

How important are the arts and live music sectors to you as a prospective councillor and how do you aim to support them?

I regard this as very important as it is at the very core of what makes Melbourne so well-known globally. The heritage and cultural importance of the city must be maintained and balanced with new development. I would support funding for more recognised festivals, international artists and events to be brought to Melbourne.

What are your priorities in terms of what you want to achieve for your community as a councillor?

  • A financially sound budget that caters well for the community’s needs.
  • Fairer rates charged to residents and businesses.
  • An adequate Domestic Animal Management Plan to best serve the community.
  • More open spaces, walking tracks and parks where it’s lacking and the existing ones well maintained.
  • More community engagement in decision making regarding their communities.

 How important is climate action to you and how do you plan to implement it within your council?

This is equally important to us as a party and forms part of our core policies.  Our values are based on reducing our carbon footprint as we are in a climate emergency globally.

Have a green strategic policy in place to ensure:

  • Our operations are energy efficient in usage of utilities, offices and equipment.
  • Effective recycling policy for both the council and the residents.
  • Offer residents and business incentives to reduce carbon emissions.
  • Review the council vehicle fleet to ensure it’s the most energy-efficient and the least carbon emissions.

Artemis Pattichi – Independent

What is your strategy for rebuilding your local community and supporting its small businesses post-lockdown?

My strategy will be focused on supporting our people and businesses hit the hardest with practical help, while working towards a positive vision of the future we want to create. Speaking with numerous small businesses during the lockdown, and as a small business owner myself, a common theme emerged: they are lacking practical help and support, a centralised space to find information on funding or other helpful resources while they are trying to stay afloat. Our local community will also need serious investment in money and resources in reconnecting and making it safe again. That means more open green spaces where the community can meet safely, more support to local groups on how they can meet both in person and online, and have a stronger community voice and input in the council’s decision-making process and during the implementation of council plans in their neighbourhood.

How do you plan to support live music venues in reopening and getting back on their feet post-lockdown?

Live music venues paint a wide brush stroke on our city’s character and are a vital part of many Melburnians’ lives. We need to support our live music venues during these unprecedented times to stay alive and thrive, by alleviating them of council rates while they regain their strength, supporting local artists and connecting them to music venues that might be struggling with bookings or headliners, provide more outdoor alternatives to live music venues while social distancing restrictions apply so they can get straight back to work, make grants available to live music venues, create better awareness of our live music venues on council channels and in the media, speak directly with live music venues owners and artists to identify the areas where they need the most support and agree together on the best action plan to provide meaningful support to a suffering industry that supports our city’s amazing artists.

How important are the arts and live music sectors to you as a prospective councillor and how do you aim to support them?

The arts and live music have been a big enriching part of my life in Melbourne for years. They give us a very unique insight into our world and ourselves, or we get to enter entirely different worlds while being wonderfully entertained. Like me, many Melburnians enjoy or are involved in the arts and live music, as one can see from the incredible participation of Melbourne’s many music and arts festivals. There is no question that we need to help and support these important sectors, who are some of the hardest hit with the least amount of security. As Melbourne City councillor, I plan to support our arts and live music with practical solutions that will help and empower the people suffering the consequences of the pandemic while they get back on their feet and to financial security.

I plan to create a beneficial environment and conditions in our city that will give them better access to opportunities where they can get their work in front of audiences. Both through boosting our city’s festival scene and by providing direct help and support to our artists and venues in monetary and practical ways. But first, and more importantly, without financial security, our artists and venues need solutions with an immediate effect and results. Nobody knows better what they need than the people who are in the situation themselves, so the first thing I want to do as councillor is hear directly from the people suffering the consequences and what immediate, practical solutions they need right now to weather the storm. And then get to work.

What are your priorities in terms of what you want to achieve for your community as a councillor?

I actually decided to run for councillor because of the community work we’ve managed to achieve in Southbank, both by co-founding and leading the Southbank Sustainability Group (SSG) for the past four years into becoming a Melbourne Awards-winning force of change and by holding various positions in the Southbank Residents Association for almost just as long. Both positions brought me in close contact with council, giving me an insight into the best ways of access and the roadblocks that make it harder for communities to receive meaningful support when they need it.

With SSG we managed to do the unfathomable: we finally built a sense of community in Southbank. Something that many residents have been longing for years but our poorly planned concrete jungle was making it impossible. These experiences equipped me with very unique skills of getting into the heart of communities’ needs and opportunities and, from there, get to practical solutions that work for that community’s needs and vision. They also taught me how important planning is and how deeply it impacts our neighbourhoods and us for many years to come, and how council decisions are shaping our living (and working) environment and conditions when there isn’t any forethought put into how that decision will impact the local community and in what way. This experience and insights will be invaluable if elected councillor, as there are many suburbs in our lovely city that are missing the sense of community, good spaces to meet and engage with each other, spaces that are created to cater to the specific needs of each community. I also plan to support and empower our diverse communities into accessing live-work-play opportunities, make our council more inclusive and easier to participate and where their voices are better heard and represented in our council’s decision-making process.

How important is climate action to you and how do you plan to implement it within your council?

Climate action is one of my key areas focus, as we cannot talk about the future of anything if we don’t first secure our species’ survival through reducing and recapturing our environmental emissions and fast! How we rebuild next will determine the direction we take and the future we create. We have a unique opportunity to make Melbourne a leading city in climate solutions that are practical, informed, fair, regenerative, accountable and large-scale, without sacrificing prosperity. To do that, while we rebuild our decisions and solutions must deliver on all three economic, social and environmental wellbeing and prosperity.

Our solutions will need to focus on education, regenerative practices, increase activated green spaces, support local ecosystems and water health, make practical solutions easily accessible to both residents and businesses, involve our Traditional Owners more in this conversation and in leading solutions, tap into Melbourne’s innovative thinking to help us get to new solutions, while reducing our biggest CO2 emitters and our waste. Every single council decision should be considering its environmental impact if we want to steer clear of the point of no return for our climate.

The future of our planet and the wellbeing of future generations depends upon us acting now, with a clear vision of the future we want to create and with practical solutions that work. To do that, we need diverse thinking and better representation where decisions are made. We also need fresh, strong, independent voices at the level of government closest to the community: our local council. The next four years will be decisive.

Paul Silverberg – Liberal Democrats

What is your strategy for rebuilding your local community and supporting its small businesses post-lockdown?

Our strategy is to review all of the current projects. The projects that are found not to be of benefit to the community, but rather “pet” projects, will be shut and money reallocated to support the recovery of local businesses. We will also cut red tape to help residents and businesses get back on their feet. This pandemic has affected the mental health of many residents and it is very important we lift the burden of having too many rules.

How do you plan to support live music venues in reopening and getting back on their feet post-lockdown?

We should reallocate funds from the budget to support advertising campaigns inviting people to visit Melbourne and to make the city vibrant again.

How important are the arts and live music sectors to you as a prospective councillor and how do you aim to support them?

Arts and live music are critical to the vibe of Melbourne. The current crisis has disproportionately affected the entertainment industry and people in their 20s who both are employed within this industry and live in the council area. Therefore, a significant priority for me, if elected, is to focus on projects that can help those venues bounce back again and freeze the rates of venues. In addition, we would reallocate money from projects without good returns to support these venues.

What are your priorities in terms of what you want to achieve for your community as a councillor?

My absolute priority will be to help the residents and the business to get back on track. There are people who will be losing mortgages, businesses going bankrupt and potential for some underprivileged residents to go hungry. The priorities are to remove the financial burden and get the city moving and back in business.

How important is climate action to you and how do you plan to implement it within your council?

The reality is not much can be done at the council level because energy, resources, manufacturing and other policies are determined at the state and federal level. Instead, we should focus on helping people deal with the worst recession for a hundred years.

Lauren Sherson – Independent

What is your strategy for rebuilding your local community and supporting its small businesses post-lockdown?

My strategy is based on healthy minds, healthy business. Mental health is first on my agenda this council election for, without it, our communities and our businesses are not in a position to recover. Specifically, my strategy surrounds social connectedness and generating local business activity.

My plan for healthy minds involves establishing a mental health information booth in Bourke Street Mall. Accessible, approachable, human-to-human support. I intend on establishing monthly Town Hall Public Presentations on mental health with issue-based experts, Q&A plus conversation corners for individualised discussions that make progress. To broaden our support for each other, I seek to establish on-going mental health first aid training courses, available to anyone who wants to learn how to support people through a mental health crisis until help arrives.

My plan for healthy business starts with our children and getting 20,000 kids in business. Early childhood and young adult development has been taken away in 2020. Establishing an entrepreneurship education program for 9-17-year-olds prepares our children with the skills and networks for an unknown future, and also sees families working together to develop real-life projects – creating new small businesses that solve local challenges.

I am committing $100 million to retain and attract events, businesses and jobs to the City of Melbourne. I further commit to slash the cost to business by reducing all council business fees by 50 per cent until FY21/22 and all other fees between 10-30 per cent.

Grants may be available, but writing grant applications is a business owners’ bane. I am determined to see practical help for venue owners and artists via a reopening assistant. This service is to help with grant writing applications, help with the logistics of COVID-safe operations, and help with multicultural application of changes and new ways.

Parking is a vehicle to generate local business activity. Free parking causes congestion and does not translate to paying customers. Instead, I am committing to $1,000 on-street parking credit to retail and hospitality shops to get their customers coming back to their shops and venues.

A “build it and they will come” attitude to rebuilding Melbourne is not an economic development strategy. What we need are councillors who understand the need to focus on social connectedness and generating business activity as the mechanism and driver to producing a thriving city.

How do you plan to support live music venues in reopening and getting back on their feet post-lockdown?

Our venues need to open with a COVID-safe plan now. I commit to council-funding temperature guns, weekly masks, sanitisers and other essentials to operate.

Council needs to extend its grant system and criteria to include tech innovation for the arts. This is to span operational aspects of venues living in a COVID world, as well as new experiences for fans in-venue, and participation in events when onsite capacity is full.

Rooftop carparks need to be repurposed for revenue-generating, outdoor, safe spaces for live music and entertainment. Similarly, drive-in gigs need to be established. Both these initiatives are to partner with local venues for talent, production, food and beverage and branding/promotion.

Our Yarra River has seen barges converted into stages, with grassy banks filled with picnic blankets. Rather than one large, corporate company booking talent and production, we need our local venues to have the opportunity for a barge to be their stage for a night.

I am further calling upon the federal government to suspend Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) on meals, entertainment and parking. I also call upon the state government to provide 500,000 meals to single Victorians, who have been consigned to isolation for months, so they are recognised and encouraged to attend our venues and be part of live music’s rejuvenation.

Melbourne is a global music city and needs a global stage. We may not be able to board a plane right now, but we can board a Sister City arrangement with Nashville to share innovation, reduce our isolation, gain international exposure for our artists and bring headline acts to Melbourne digitally. Our two cities share a bond in music that can leverage the energy, momentum, technology and progress of each other.

Domestic tourism needs Melbourne to claim back its status as Australia’s cultural, arts and nightlife city. We can do this by giving artists paid gigs. As people gradually feel safe on public transport, we need dedicated live music trams that bring people back into the city to the beat of live music. As people ride their bikes toward the city, we need paid artists on bike tracks to remind people of the city’s venues and activities occurring that day. Melbourne has new stories to tell and we need to commission street artists to tell these stories in our laneways and designated mural locations.

How important are the arts and live music sectors to you as a prospective councillor and how do you aim to support them?

Melbourne lost its soul when live music was shut down in 2020. Live music existed before language, before written history and music is what gets the community’s hearts to beat as one. When our music is taken away, so is our culture, our mental health strategy, our expression and our social connectedness. I wish I could hold a note when I sing but even though I can’t, I feel music, I feel the arts and I feel the social connectedness it brings and the grounding it gives me and society. I was mortified to hear a musician had police arrive for playing in their own front yard one afternoon. I have been devastated that COVID-safe initiatives proposed have been sidelined until 2021. I watch the demand for mental health hotlines soar when I know music and the arts is a mental health strategy.

Our Artists need paid gigs. Our venues need to open. Melbourne needs its nightlife economy. The cost of not opening, the cost of not supporting this sector with every avenue possible for safety and viability, is a cost far more than money.

What are your priorities in terms of what you want to achieve for your community as a councillor?

Healthy minds and healthy business is my focus for the City of Melbourne. Achieving social connectedness and achieving business activity requires a focus on delivering opportunities for mental health and small business development. Every empire in history has become so because of their culture and because of the innovation produced by its people. To bring back Melbourne, we need to invest in culture and innovation.

How important is climate action to you and how do you plan to implement it within your council?

Grassroots climate action has been on my personal agenda since I was in primary school. What I did not know then, that I have learned now, is that the key comes down to environmental entrepreneurship. My initiative for 20,000 kids in business with an entrepreneurship training program for 9-17-year-olds gives a sustainable, real-life vehicle for producing environmental solutions that have impact. We need future generations creating the future, now. We need parents and local community groups working together with our youth to produce new projects, new initiatives, new technologies and new ways of doing things.

Scott Robson – Independent

What is your strategy for rebuilding your local community and supporting its small businesses post-lockdown?

The critical strategy is to protect the vulnerable and not be afraid of the virus, young people are virtually unaffected by the virus and should lead the way, creating herd immunity to protect our vulnerable.

How do you plan to support live music venues in reopening and getting back on their feet post-lockdown?

I believe that a diverse and vibrant music industry supporting contemporary musicians and music-lovers will be a critical aspect of rebuilding and reconnecting all Victorians post-lockdown.

How important are the arts and live music sectors to you as a prospective councillor and how do you aim to support them?

Arts and music represents high culture that has made Melbourne one of the most liveable cities in the world.

What are your priorities in terms of what you want to achieve for your community as a councillor?

To tell you a bit more about myself, I am standing as a purely independent common-sense Melburnian. I am not limited by a single issue, political party, or ideology. Importantly, I believe people are intelligent and capable of taking personal responsibility for their own decisions about the risks and opportunities they take. I will encourage prosperity and life-quality, and protect against fear and control. Supporting the vulnerable and enabling the capable.

Born in Melbourne, graduated Masters of Business Administration, AIB, and Bachelor Science, Monash University.   

My guiding principles are:

  1. Question everything.
  2. Choose common sense over regulation.
  3. Council projects should be aesthetic and practical.
  4. Think like a scientist rather than have faith in ‘science’.
  5. People belong to groups; groups are not people.
  6. We are all connected.
  7. It all happens with a smile.
How important is climate action to you and how do you plan to implement it within your council?

Climate action needs to be practical and relevant, concentrating on clean air, clean water and quality of life. I ask that you support my campaign and together, let’s make Melbourne the world’s most liveable city again.

Chris di Pasquale – Victorian Socialists

What is your strategy for rebuilding your local community and supporting its small businesses post-lockdown?

As the first and most important question is how to ensure we follow the best health advice available, we do not support a premature reopening because it puts human life and public health at risk. It’s also worth noting that in the long term countries who have chosen not to lock down or have opened up too early have suffered dire economic consequences as well as health ones. We believe that the many candidates calling for an easing of restrictions against the best health advice are putting all of us at greater risk.

We will work with public health experts to do everything we can to make Melbourne as safe as possible for its residents, workers and visitors. We want to see publicly available PPE throughout Melbourne, hand sanitiser and mask dispensers throughout Melbourne’s streets and particularly near busy hubs and dining precincts. We will work to convert all of our pedestrian crossing buttons to no-touch facilities. We want a renewed multi-language public health education campaign. As well as keeping Melbourne safer we believe such projects could enable more job creation.

Once it is safe for more business to reopen, a really key component is that we have a population that can actually afford a decent quality of life which, in turn, enables people to purchase products, entertainment and services offered by local businesses. If elected, we will use the influence of our position to lobby for an increase to all pensions, to reverse the cuts to JobKeeper and JobSeeker, including the reduction for part-timers. We need to see wage subsidies extended to casual and migrant workers as well.

How do you plan to support live music venues in reopening and getting back on their feet post-lockdown?

We need to carve out more space for the arts. This means standing up to developers who would put apartments and townhouses on every square inch of the city if they could. We know when live music venues close and are repurposed for residential development, they are lost for good.

We will work with the state government and other stakeholders to rezone areas to establish permanent creative spaces and venues, setting aside land and buildings for affordable studios and performance spaces to sustain a thriving arts ecology. By creating more permanent council-owned arts spaces, we can provide secure, well-paid jobs for arts workers, as well as affordable access to music and art. We want to make it possible for everyone to engage regularly with the arts for free and make sure arts workers are properly paid and protected.

Where live music and other community arts venues are in financial distress, the City of Melbourne should offer rate relief to help keep them open – on the proviso that these venues are reviewed and approved by the hospitality and arts workers and their unions. Too often performers and workers in hospitality are underpaid, or paid late or not at all. Council should be scrutinising these businesses to ensure everyone is getting a fair deal.

It’s also really important that we’re looking not just at arts venues but how to support artists themselves. The federal government’s arts relief package is a joke – it’s a fraction of what governments around the world are providing for their arts sectors. And in many cases, the JobKeeper subsidy has had the effect of propping up businesses while the artists and workers who actually create music, art and productions fall through the cracks. Many in this sector don’t qualify for JobKeeper payments due to the casual, freelance or contract nature of their work. And artists on JobSeeker face having their payments cut when they get a commission or win a prize – money that’s supposed to go towards their work, not living expenses. Councillors should be using their position to advocate for real, ongoing income support for artists, especially emerging artists, as well as expanding grants and rental relief strategies through council budgets.

How important are the arts and live music sectors to you as a prospective councillor and how do you aim to support them?

Art and music have the potential not just to entertain and educate but are important avenues for self-expression and achieving social change. It is no coincidence that every revolution and mass movement that challenges the injustices of our world ushers forth explosions of creativity, music, street art and more.

Artists today fight an uphill battle in trying to survive, afford rent and bills, let alone the inherent costs involved in creating the art itself. But artists are also battling gross inequality and challenges imposed on this sector by capitalism. When art is instrumentalised for profit, you see a lot less diversity in the industry; the biggest voices tend to dominate. It also means art is less accessible to the public, especially working class, migrant, refugee and First Nations people. Art should be free and accessible to everyone in the community. Under capitalism, it’s also become incredibly difficult to make a living in the arts, with rampant casualisation and exploitation in the industry.

And as universities have been turned into neoliberal degree-factories, resources for drama, music and fine arts tend to get slashed first. Over the last ten years, many of Australia’s world-class arts education institutions have been destroyed by university administrations’ ruthless pursuit of profit.

All this means there are high barriers to working in the arts. Those from rich families are much more likely to get by in the industry, so working-class, migrant and First Nations people are under-represented. The best way to counteract these problems and create opportunities for diverse participation in the sector is to make arts work secure, organised and well-paid, and to ensure education in the field is free and well-funded. Victorian Socialists will fight to make this a reality.

What are your priorities in terms of what you want to achieve for your community as a councillor?

Victorian Socialists want to make Melbourne a capital city for all, not a city for capital.

This means prioritising and elevating the voices of the often ignored and marginalised in our community. We want to replace the current Lord Mayor’s ‘captains of industry’ advisory committee with committees made up of public housing residents, international students and migrant workers, we will work with first nations activists and community leaders in ending offensive celebrations of so called “Australia Day”.

It also means a revolution in housing to make Melbourne affordable again.

Like more than half of Melbourne’s residents and many low-waged and underemployed city workers, I’m a renter. Housing affordability and insecurity have been a constant feature of my life. Housing stress is common among low income earners, with the majority of Melbourne’s city workers commuting for over an hour each day. Working class communities have been pushed out of inner Melbourne. The people who make our city run – the frontline workers who in the midst of this pandemic are risking their health and their lives to serve our community – can’t afford to live here anymore. We want Melbourne to live up to its title of being the most liveable city.

If elected Victorian socialists will:

  • Advocate for a five-year rent freeze.
  • Campaign for the government to introduce mandatory inclusionary zoning to increase public and affordable housing units.
  • Rate relief for all resident home owners experiencing housing stress.

Melbourne’s homelessness and growing public housing waitlists are a disgrace in a wealthy state like this. There are more empty homes than homeless people across Melbourne, many left deliberately vacant, as landlords see greater financial incentive in land banking, capital gains taxes and negative gearing. This hoarding of housing stock while people live on the streets is just plain cruel. We will lobby the government to confiscate long term unoccupied dwellings from landlords who refuse to rent them – and use them as public housing stock to house the city’s homeless.

The recent hard lockdown of public housing towers in Melbourne shed a light on years of neglect of public housing stock by governments at every level.

If elected Victorian socialists will:

  • Work with public housing residents to give them a direct voice on council.
  • Ensure council and the state government supply masks, disinfectant, and multi-language public health information to all public housing residents.
  • Oppose the state government’s selling off of public housing.
  • Instead, advocate to massively increase the number of public housing units.
  • demand a huge increase in resources for repairs in public housing, so residents don’t need to fight tooth and nail for basic upkeep.

We also believe council owes Melbourne’s workers much greater levels of support than it currently provides. It’s no secret that wage theft and unsafe working conditions are rampant across the City of Melbourne.

If elected we will:

  • Demand all business located in the CBD open their books to union scrutiny.
  • Only tender to catering and hospitality businesses which are “Fair Plate” certified- that is. approved by hospitality workers and their unions.
  • Create a 24/7 hotline for wage theft and safety complaints.
  • Businesses that underpay or mistreat staff will not be eligible for rate relief, council grants, fee discounts or council advertising.
  • Increase resources for investigating and enforcing health and safety standards in Melbourne workplaces.

In short, Victorian Socialists are fighting for a better world! A world, where health and life are put before profit, in other words, for socialism.

How important is climate action to you and how do you plan to implement it within your council?

Climate change threatens all life on earth. And governments led by both major parties continue to prioritise policies that allow big business to destroy the planet so they can make a profit. I am proud to be an environmental activists and one of the organisers of last year’s blockade of the IMARC (International Mining and Resources Conference) a gathering of the world’s most notorious climate criminals which occurred in Melbourne and was shamefully welcomed by the City of Melbourne.

If elected to council, the Victorian Socialists will do everything we can to drive climate criminals out of Melbourne, expand investment into green jobs, protect existing green spaces and increase community gardens and urban forests, stand with First Nations and climate justice activists the world over in opposing the planned “gas and fossil fuels led recovery”.

We reached out to Davydd Griffiths, Rod Whitfield, Mary Delahunty, Hamdi Ali, Elizabeth Mary Doidge, Charles Pick, Moti Visa, Bedri Sainovski, Jason Chang, Peter Clarke, Beverley Frances Pinder, Abdirahman I. Ali, Beverley Honig, Mark K. Poulakis, Luke Downing, Philip Jonathan, Darin Schade, Rohan Leppert, Olivia Ball, Emily Corcoran, Christopher Di Pasquale, Jesse Lambourn, Joseph Burke, Michael Mach Bateman, Andrew Ward, Faith Newman, Janette Corcoran, Mary Masters, Samantah Tran, Sainab Sheikh, Fatuma Ali, Andrew Rowse, John Daniel, Jacki Watts, Michael Kennedy, Haya Aldaghlas, Dashi Zhang, Philip Le Liu, Serena Lu Jiang, Richard Belcher, Bettina Terry, Jamal Hakim, Safaa Hakim, Kevin Louey, Roshena Campbell, Mark David McMillan, Tania Davidge, James Young, Tina Kuek and Adriana Mendieta Nino but did not receive a response to our questions in time for publication. They are also running for council in City of Melbourne. 

Leadership Party

One vacancy, 18 candidates.

Phil Reed – Labor

What is your strategy for rebuilding your local community and supporting its small businesses post-lockdown?

Lots of candidates can tell you what they want to do, but very few can tell you how they will do it. We’ve laid out detailed action plans to support business and bring our city back to life. Simple things like council taking out public liability insurance and liquor licences across the city so that individual businesses don’t have those sorts of hurdles in their way when they try and open up al fresco. Better still, once we have those building blocks in place it will also be easier for community groups, artists and performers to fill our public spaces with colour and movement. These are the practical things that our Capital City government can do to support businesses to start trading again.

How do you plan to support live music venues in reopening and getting back on their feet post-lockdown?

My early working life was as a sound engineer working the pubs and clubs around Melbourne and Victoria, and I’m conscious of the impact the closure of our venues is having on so many levels to so many people. It will clearly be some time before we can fill our indoor venues with crowds once more, so we need to find other ways to ensure the eco-system survives. That means creating opportunities for all those people who earn a living from the industry – the artists, the production teams, the promoters and the venue owners and their staff. It will take more than one plan to make the difference – it will require a Capital City Government that is active and agile and supports our creative industries in developing their own creative solutions.

How important are the arts and live music sectors to you as a prospective councillor and how do you aim to support them?

Live performance has always been my favourite creative outlet, and we are so blessed to live in a city with such remarkable strength across all the creative arts. My family history goes back to Australia’s vaudeville era and there’s definitely still plenty of creative passion still flowing through my veins. I’m not a TV box set junkie or anything like that. I’m much more at home watching an artist create something in front of my eyes. As Lord Mayor, I’ll make sure we are delivering opportunities for both the artists and their audience.

What are your priorities in terms of what you want to achieve for your community as a councillor?

I’ve said right from the start that I want to change the culture of the City of Melbourne from being just another local council to a real capital city government. A government that seeks to create change – not just sit back and wait for change to happen and then turn up for the ribbon-cutting. Government at every level needs to be active.

How important is climate action to you and how do you plan to implement it within your council?

There’s an old saying that goes: “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” so I’ve always been conscious that taking a stand on issues like climate change means you have to set targets to measure yourself against – otherwise all you do is make grandiose statements but never deliver real change. As Lord Mayor, I’ll make sure that all our policies – especially in terms of climate and environment – have targets that we’ll report against annually. I may not be able to move the dial as far as some people want but at least residents and ratepayers will be able to see that the dial is moving in the right direction.

Sally Capp – Independent

What is your strategy for rebuilding your local community and supporting its small businesses post-lockdown?

I am advocating for businesses of all sizes – from sole operators to small family businesses through to our global businesses. I have a strong track record of delivery. In my first two years as Lord Mayor, I led the growth of the Melbourne economy from $94 billion to $104 billion. Growth of $10 billion does not happen by accident – it takes leadership and determination.

  • Jobs to reactivate and revitalise the city. I have set a target to generate 20,000 jobs each year for the next four years – that’s a total of 80,000 jobs.
  • A rates freeze to help ease the financial burden for residents and business – As Lord Mayor, I have already supported a freeze on rates for the 2020/21 financial year and I have pledged to extend the freeze for 2021/22, if re-elected.
  • Putting Melbourne business first– The City of Melbourne would adopt a procurement policy with a 30 per cent weighting for Melbourne business, if I am re-elected. This would help support small businesses in the city and keep money in our local economy.
  • Free street parking– I have promised that from December 2020 to the end of February 2021, from Friday to Monday, drivers will get free on-street parking. This would encourage people back into the city and get cash registers ringing again.
  • Melbourne Dollars– Diners would get a 20 per cent discount on meals and hospitality venues would get a quick boost, under the $25 million Melbourne Dollars program to be run in partnership with Broadsheet. The City of Melbourne would tip in $5 million to fund the subsidy for diners but venues would get the full value of the spend.
  • Melbourne Restaurant Week– If re-elected, I will serve up a twice-yearly, week-long festival to promote Melbourne dining venues. Melbourne Restaurant Week will feature fixed-price menus showcasing signature dishes in participating restaurants, a progressive dinner party moving from venue to venue for different courses, and a ‘Parma Night’ when chefs across the city will bring us their distinctive take on the legendary parmigiana. The City of Melbourne will invest $2 million in promotion and subsidised parking to support the event, which would be coordinated in partnership with the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival and restaurateurs.
  • Queen Victoria Market– Queen Victoria Market will get a pre-Christmas boost with first-time stallholders to be given free space, if I am re-elected. This would encourage more traders and more visitors to QVM.
  • Greenline – I have committed $80 million to deliver the first stage iconic Greenline project, in her second term. Greenline will create new open spaces that connect existing parks and will deliver new bikeways and walkways. It will generate jobs during construction, deliver new connections for moving around our city, boost business by attracting visitors and generate economic benefit with property value uplift and activity. Greenline will help revitalise our city in the short-term while changing the face of Melbourne into the future.

How do you plan to support live music venues in reopening and getting back on their feet post-lockdown?

Team Capp includes music entrepreneur and after dark advocate, James Young. James owns the iconic Cherry Bar in the city as well as another two music venues. If elected, James will become Melbourne’s first Night Mayor with responsibility for driving the revitalisation of our city’s world-famous and economically valuable night-time economy.

How important are the arts and live music sectors to you as a prospective councillor and how do you aim to support them?

The short answer is – very! In addition to appointing the city’s first Night Mayor, I have pledged other support for arts. For example, the Global Events and Arts City plan will deliver more public art with:

  • More public art around our city so that art is even more accessible for residents, workers and visitors, and enhances the experience of visiting our famous galleries.
  • Art installations on temporary structures like the Melbourne Metro sheds. Team Capp understands the importance of the arts and live music to the city’s character, attractiveness and economy.

What are your priorities in terms of what you want to achieve for your community as a councillor?

Together with my team, we want to see Melbourne reactivated and reinvigorated. We want businesses and attractions to reopen as soon as it is safe to do so, and will do everything we can to assure people that they can confidently return to a clean, safe city. We want Melbourne to become the city of Yes! Yes to thriving businesses and jobs of the future. Yes to world-class events and attractions. Yes to green space and liveability. And yes to feeling safe and confident about our city’s future.

How important is climate action to you and how do you plan to implement it within your council?

Team Capp is committed to acting urgently on climate change and working together with stakeholders to make a difference. Part of the solution is providing alternative transport and that’s why we are committed to delivering the Greenline which will make the city more attractive for pedestrians and cyclists. We will have more to say on this issue during our campaign.

Kath Larkin, Daniel Nair Dadich, Nick Russian, Michael Burge, Wayne Tseng, Gricol Yang, Wesa Chau, Apsara Sabara Tnam, Roxanne Ingleton, Arron Richard Wood, Lisa Teh, Nicholas Reece, Jennifer Yang, Sandra Gee, Gary Morgan and Mary-Lou Howie are also running for Lord Mayor. 

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