(Photo of Mary Drost)
The Brumby Government tried to undermine this crucial Melbourne Rally and to avoid criticism by announcing they were modifying their offensive Bill, so the mainstream journalists stayed away. But the alternative press is growing and we will not fall for such simple ploys.
PEOPLE POWER AT WORK
See video of the demonstration. (Another address for the video is here). The video gives a quick, useful overview of how far the Victorian Brumby Government - like the Bracks and Kennett governments before it - is prepared to go to suppress the interests of constituents in favour of those of big business. A number of MPs, councillors and people running for council, attended because of the seriousness of this attack by government on the democratic process. One woman, identifying herself as a Melbourne Councillor, said, "I don't believe that the State Government should actually further undermine local council power. Councillors should be able to represent the local interests without fear nor favour."
People power at work - an eyewitness account.
(Originally published at the Marvelous Melbourne site at:http://marvellousmelbourne.org/drupal/?q=node/627)
For a week the residents of Victoria flooded the MPs of State Government with angry emails. A terrible thing had happened - the PEOPLE found out and they were angry. The Brumby government were bringing in a Bill which would prevent activist Councilors from voting against dreadful developments which they had publicly opposed or made a submission about. This was a blatant attempt to silence the angry voices about what the Government's flawed planning policy known as Melbourne 2030 is doing to our lifestyle everywhere.
MAV (and VLGA strangely silent on this bill
[MAV - Municipal Associations Victoria; VLGA - Victorian Local Government Association]
Evidently the Liberals and Nationals were concerned and consulted with the MAV and the VLGA who saw no problems with the Bill. The Libs then wrote to all 79 councils and they saw nothing wrong with it. (We all should give our councils a rap over the knuckles).
Then Greg Barber of the Greens sent the information to the Resident Groups who under the banner of CODE BLUE EMERGENCY started a letter drive and a newspaper blitz.
As it was going to the Upper House on the 28th, we all moved fast and kept up the pressure. At the last minute following a great idea from Lynette Kelleher of Westernport (and standing for Council), a Rally was pushed through for the Steps of Parliament for 1.30 on the 28th, jointly pulled together by Serge Thomann (of St Kilda Triangle fame and standing for Council), and Mary Drost of Planning Backlash (a network of 140 groups across city country and coast) and Julianne Bell of Protectors Public Lands, as well as the Greens.
The Government tried to undermine the Rally and the attack they had been subjected to by coming out saying they were modifying the Bill. However, not trusting them the Rally went ahead. A great success, about 200 turned up and were joined by a large number of MPs from all parties. Some of them spoke and everyone had black tape across their mouths being gagged. There was a great atmosphere of unity and resolve.
Mainstream journalists easily put off the scent by government ploy
However, because of the Government statement the press thought it was over and did not show up. A clever government move.
[Editorial addition: The Melbourne Leader published an article about the protests under local news, but this matter affects the whole of Victoria. It is not local news.]
Those who stayed to listen to the debate discovered that the Government statement was empty and fortunately the Opposition Parties in the Upper House were able to get through an amendment which blocked the section put in to gag active councillors who try to do what they are elected for, represent the people. All parties in the Opposition seats of the Upper house, worked together and pulled it off, all speaking strongly against what the Government had tried to do.