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Property Council welcomes the Government’s decision to undertake a review of the Melbourne City Council as it considers the effective democratic governance of this City as essential to the long-term economic and social well being of the people of the State.
The City of Melbourne is the gateway to Victoria in every respect. Property Council has long recognised that Capital Cities play a key role strategically within any State or Territory in Australia. They are the economic, cultural, transport and communications hubs for the nation, and provide the economic drivers and the infrastructure for industries within their boundaries, and for the regions that surround them.
Capital Cities will be increasingly important in the globalised world, providing homes for the new economy knowledge industries, and opportunities to engage the world in economic growth and development.
“The economic prosperity of the whole of Australia, including all of its regions will depend on the nations having successful, globally oriented cities. The role of the cities in global markets is crucial…”
(Capital Cities and Australia’s Future).
As national governments have diminishing discretion in many areas of economic policy, and broad macro policy is converging across nations, cities will assume an increasingly important role. They will:
help Australia capture a bigger slice of growing world business services
improve the cost competitiveness of our Elaborately Transformed Manufactures
bolster technical innovation
expand cultural tourism
Stability and reliability of governance and financial institutions, the efficiency of infrastructure, environmental quality and urban living along with the skills of the labour force, are important factors affecting the functionality of the city.
The role of the City of Melbourne Council in providing strategic leadership, a vision, goal setting and inspirational leadership for the proper management of the City is absolutely crucial to the future of the City and the State.
Property Council holds a number of specific operational concerns in relation to the current Council. Those concerns include the composition of the Council itself and the relationships between the Councillors; the relationships between Councillors and Council administration; relationships (or lack thereof) between Councillors and business organizations; and the relationship (or lack of it) between the Council and the State Government.
While the Melbourne City Council Facilitation Panel made a number of recommendations and negotiated a number of agreements between Councillors and the administration which Property Council thinks can be useful for the reform of the internal workings of this Council, and valuable for the good functioning of future Councils, the mere fact that it was needed indicates a breakdown of process.
Property Council is of the view that the current elected Council is dysfunctional and it is our view that this is a recurrent problem, which is due to structural issues.
The result of the existing structure is a lack of connectivity to the overall strategy of the State, a Lord Mayor without a mandate in circumstances where the Council is hung and a lack of commitment to a cohesive strategy for the City. The current structure, despite past attempts at reform, has not resulted in ongoing effective representation for business.
The combination of electorate structure, low business vote, and lack of a functioning relationship with the State Government, combined with a real lack of accountability, mean there is an urgent need for reform.
Property Council is of the view that if the current dysfunctionality and structural problems persist both the City of Melbourne and Victoria as a whole will be the losers, through lost opportunities and failure to maximise and play to our strengths.