Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) — I would like to rise to speak briefly on the City of Greater Geelong Amendment Bill 2017. From the outset, we are certainly all aware of the issues facing that council and the toxic environment that councillors and staff alike were experiencing. I think Terry Moran’s report was very telling and very explicit in the issues that it raised, and there certainly needed to be some sort of brake switch on what was going on there. With what ultimately happened with the sacking of the council, I think there was nothing else that could have been done, given the circumstances and the toxic nature and environment of that council and the management of that council. Things really did have to go back to the bare bones — to start building it up to being the healthy environment that it can be.
We all know that Geelong is a beautiful place. It is growing at a very considerable rate. It is the second-largest city in Victoria, and we are finding that more and more people are choosing Geelong as a place to live in and commute from to the city of Melbourne. But the system of the directly elected mayor failed Geelong. I think this was just so evident. Terry Moran’s report could not have highlighted that more, with the bullying and the fact that there was just no long-term vision for greater Geelong, a place that has such opportunity. As someone was saying to me last night, it has the only north-facing bay, which is a wonderful geographic attribute to have.
I was very interested in the citizens jury. What interested me today was noting that the jury’s report was of 16 pages but the government’s report back to it was twice as long. It is interesting. The 100 good citizens who were randomly chosen in Geelong I think did a very good and thoughtful job. I think they all worked very hard. They came to the conclusions that they did, and this bill reflects the decisions made by those 100 citizens of the Greater Geelong area. I for one think that we should respect that decision, in particular the decision — —
Mr Ramsay — How many people live in Geelong?
Ms PATTEN — Approximately 280 000.
An honourable member — Well done.
Ms PATTEN — Thank you. So it is a large area. To take up Mr Ramsay’s interjection, I did actually speak — albeit via email — to a few of the people who had been on the jury. One gentleman called himself a citizen of the Bellarine.
Mr Ramsay — Who was that?
Ms PATTEN — Mr Noel Emselle. He said he is a citizen of the Bellarine. I asked him, actually, because I thought Mr Davis was going to bring on an amendment about naming Geelong the second city of Victoria.
Mr Davis — I am.
Ms PATTEN — I have not seen the amendment tabled yet, Mr Davis. I was interested in this and in the thoughts of the jury. I have to say that Noel, the citizen of the Bellarine, did not consider that he was part of the city of Geelong. He was part of the greater area but he was not a citizen of Geelong, so he was not going to comment on whether it should be the second city or not. What he said was:
… as a conservative serving on that jury I saw a democratic process carried out to an impeccable methodology. If you vote against its recommendation you are likely to have egg on your face and a poor reputation among genuine supporters of democracy.
That was probably the politest response I got from canvassing the jury members’ responses to Mr Davis’s amendment to have a directly elected mayor, in contradiction of what the good citizens of that jury had recommended.
Mr Ramsay interjected.
Ms PATTEN — No. I got 100 out of 100. I have to admit — —
Mr Morris — A small sample, was it?
Ms PATTEN — It was a small sample. I take that point, Mr Morris; it was a small sample. But I also take the point that in the report that citizens jury found that this was what they were going to recommend, so that is what we should be following.
Mr Ramsay interjected.
Ms PATTEN — It was not an easy decision-making process, and I think they were very thoughtful in how they came to it. I was very pleased to see that there was considerable debate about it. I think earlier in the part they liked that iconic nature of having your own mayor. That was attractive to them. As they worked through the details of this, they came back with the result that they would prefer to see a mayor that was nominated by the councillors and that would take a two-year option. That is what this bill sets out — that that is how the mayor will be elected and there will no longer be an independently, separately elected mayor. I think this is quite right, and I am pleased to be supporting the Geelong Citizens Jury. I am pleased to be supporting the recommendations that they have made to us.
I think this has been an interesting process. It has been a new process. Seeing the work that the citizens jury undertook and the seriousness, passion and commitment that they took to that I think is something that we should all reflect on as representatives of those citizens.
Mr Ramsay interjected.
Ms PATTEN — Mr Ramsay, I know that this is a new thing for people from a party, but I actually read the bills before I vote on them and I actually research the bills before I vote on them. I actually make my own decision. I do not just do what my party tells me to do; I actually make my own decision about the bill. I research it, I canvass it and I come to a decision that sits well with me and that I am comfortable with. Thank you, Mr Ramsay, for giving me that opportunity.
Ms Shing — On a point of order, Acting President, I am just wondering if Mr Ramsay would like some Dettol for that burn.
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Ms Dunn) — Order! Ms Shing is well aware that that is not a point of order. Ms Patten, there is no need to take up Mr Ramsay’s interjections. It is not necessary.
Ms PATTEN — Thank you, Acting President. That was sage advice. In conclusion, to give Mr Davis his credit, I was actually quite interested in the second-city proposal, and I have been looking at that proposal on an international level. We have seen it in Scotland with Dundee, and we have seen it in Pittsburgh-Cleveland, recognising the second-city notion. However, I note that Mr Davis has not tabled that amendment as yet. On the basis of that, I am not supporting the opposition’s amendments to this bill, and I commend the bill to the house.