A MOVE to clamp down on state and federal candidates who are Kingston councillors from participating in debate and voting on council matters has sparked a war of words between Kingston Council and the state Liberal Party.
Liberal state Upper House MP for the South Eastern Metropolitan Region Inga Peulich condemned the council move in Parliament last Wednesday (7 March).
Ms Peulich called on state Labor Special Minister of State Gavin Jennings to intervene.
“What that seeks to do is improperly use the position of council — the majority on the council which controls the Kingston Council — to deny the rights of a person to be involved in political activities, something that is enshrined in our Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006,” Ms Peulich said.
“It seems to me that the definition of a councillor is the one who nominates at the issuing of the writs. This far extends the limitations.
“It is an improper use of the position on council, and I call on the minister responsible to immediately investigate this matter and take the appropriate action to make sure that the rights of individuals to be involved in the democratic process and to continue representing the constituents are protected.
Kingston Central Ward councillor Geoff Gledhill is the Liberal Party’s preferred candidate for the seat of Mordialloc at November’s state election.
The mayor Cr Steve Staikos, whose cousin is Labor Bentleigh MP Nick Staikos, said council “will not be drawn into becoming a player in the forthcoming state election campaign”.
“Under council’s newly adopted policy, a councillor who is a prospective or nominated candidate should not participate in council’s decision making processes if they choose to use council, a council issue or decision as a campaign issue,” Cr Staikos said in a statement.
“Kingston’s adopted policy goes beyond the standards set out in the Local Government Act. While this is not enforceable, it aims to clearly delineate between the roles of a councillor and an election candidate.
“Council will not come under the undue influence of any Member of Parliament or candidate. I am disappointed to read in Hansard yet again that some members of the state parliament of Victoria are using their positions to attack a high governance standard set by this council,” Cr Staikos said.
“I would encourage all councillors to abide by the councillor code of conduct and this new policy that will raise the bar in governance. Kingston is leading the sector in the introduction of these measures.”
Cr Gledhill told The News he would continue to act as a councillor in line with the Local Government Act in the lead-up to the state election until writs are issued, typically about a month before polling day.