I like Sue Bolton, and she’s likely to wind up at the top of my how to vote card unless she gets pipped at the post by an Elvis impersonator, but I’ll be honest, her party name gave me a laugh. You see, I know Bolton as our perennial Socialist Alliance candidate, who joined the Victorian Socialists at the most recent Victorian State Election. I was a bit surprised to see her not running as an Official Socialist this time, but assumed that this was because the Victorian Socialists weren’t running candidates. Nope. They might not be running candidates in North East, but they certainly are running in North West and in South. As are Sue Bolton’s team. Looks like the People’s Front of Judea and the Judean People’s Front are at it again. Ah, Socialists. I love you, but you truly embrace the stereotypes.
I’ve written about Bolton before, in 2012 and 2016, and of course she has also been mentioned in my posts about the Socialist Alliance in 2010, 2014, 2019 and Victorian Socialists in 2018. But enough of the past! Bolton is also a current Councillor since her election in 2012, and her flyer leans heavily on her council record, which includes campaigning for Upfield line duplication and missing links in the Upfield bike path, success in getting more pedestrian lights installed, campaigning to save heritage buildings, open space, and trees, opposing rate increases, outsourcing, and zero parking developments, challenging racism and Islamophobia, and more. Not all of her campaigns have been successful, but she is pretty consistent in championing the things I care about – the environment, better public transport, bike and walking paths, economic fairness and social justice. So yeah, she’s definitely going to be in my top four.
Bolton may not be running as part of the Socialist Alliance this time, but she is still decidedly socialist. Her election platform has seven strands:
- COVID-19 cost of living pressures
- Community need not developer greed (definitely Bolton’s favourite slogan!)
- Safe streets and healthy neighbourhoods
- Make Moreland a Climate Emergency Council
- Improved amenity for residents
- Helping residents fight for their rights
- Social justice
The most interesting of these to me is the first. Almost all the candidates who have read about so far (and I stupidly started reading about them out of order, so that’s nearly half at this point) have expressed concern about COVID-19 and how it affects the community, but they have all done so in terms of small business and revitalising Sydney Road. Bolton is the only one so far to be focusing on the economic impacts on individual and families, talking about increasing rebates for pensioners, a council run food bank, better youth services and activities, quality home care, rate relief, and affordable studio spaces for artists and musicians.
Bolton wants more rooftop solar, an end to council use of fossil fuels, and a move to zero local carbon emissions. She also wants more trees and better public transport. And she supports Black Lives Matter, the LGBTIQA community, refugees and asylum seekers, while opposing discrimination, racism and Islamophobia.
Incidentally, her flyer is only in English, but she directs readers to her website for information in ten community languages. (Unfortunately, she directs them to her website in English, which might be something to think about next time)
Bolton is big on transparency and being responsive to the community – she scored the highest marks in Fawkner’s Candidate Engagement Matrix, and is big on transparency in council and giving people a chance to know about how decisions are made. She has committed to the rainbow pledge and answered everyone’s surveys – her response to the Walk On Moreland question about removing parking on Sydney Road was by far the most nuanced I’ve seen on this topic, noting the fundamental issue, which is that Sydney Road simply isn’t wide enough to meet everyone’s needs, and taking into consideration the requirements of pedestrians, cyclists, shop owners who need deliveries, and people with mobility issues who need closer parking than may be available. Actually, all her responses to the Walk On Moreland question took disability access into account, in more detail than I’ve seen elsewhere.
Bolton’s How To Vote card favours her team-mate, Street, and then independents Dhedhy and Ul Murtaza, before moving onto Pulford (Greens) and Glover (Reason). At the bottom of her ticket, she has Naim, Failla and Timpano, demonstrating excellent taste in my view. Clarke is fourth from the bottom, which is a bit of a surprise since several candidates I’m quite fond of seem to favour him. I’m guessing he’s a bit further to the right economically, since that seems to be Bolton’s usual ballot organisation principle.
Yes, I’m probably going to vote for Bolton.
Ul-Murtaza is a new candidate to me, but he comes recommended by quite a few of the candidates I like, so I am hopeful.
He has a very endearing campaign video, telling us that ‘throughout history, Nature has been testing our strength, our resilience, respect and love for humanity’, through various challenges and disasters which we need to overcome with ‘courage and dignity’. He talks a bit about COVID, and comments on how its severity is linked to human behaviour, to public policy, and to inequitably distributed resources and systemic disadvantages (and now we know why the socialists like him so much!).
He ends with the following statement:
We need to look after each other, spread words of happiness, and stay connected, with the dream that as Spring sets in we will be welcoming a new era of human development, social connection and an inclusive and cohesive society.
All excellent so far, but what does this mean in practical terms?
Ul Murtaza’s Facebook page tells us that he emigrated to Australia seven years ago, and has qualifications in education, science, community service and community leadership. He has experience in training management, community engagement, employment and disability support, and has experience on a number of of committees of management. He has organised community events and forums for local, state and federal candidates and is a member of Moreland City Council’s Human Rights committee. This is a pretty impressive list of achievements, doubly so when you consider that he has only been in Moreland for seven years.
He wants to support and advocate in the following areas:
- Social Cohesion, religious harmony and promoting culture of respect
- Rate cuts and Housing affordability
- Training and employment
- Promotion of healthy sporting activities in youth
- Response to climate change
- Women’s rights and family violence
- Accessible spaces and accessible public transport &
- Better Childcare options for families
Ul Murtaza has participated in most of the forums and surveys, and is keen to promote cycling and walking, and disincentivise driving, including removing parking on Sydney Road. The Fair Parking people still like him, though. He partially supports the Rainbow pledge. He answered the Climate Action survey fairly extensively, and has a lot of thoughts about waste disposal and community gardens. It’s extremely clear why he is getting high billing on the Green ticket.
Overall? I like him. Definitely top third of the ticket for me. I think. We do seem to have a lot of very good independents this year, which might make this harder than I anticipated.
Adam was definitely a familiar face, and yes indeed, it looks like I’ve written about him before, when he ran as the third candidate on the Greens ticket in 2016 (Interestingly, the Greens are only fielding one candidate in my region this year – I wonder what happened?), and of course he ran as the Greens candidate for Wills in 2019.
His How to Vote Card gives preferences to Ul Murtaza, Bolton and Glover, with his bottom four being Naim, Failla, Timpano and Farah. So, progressives at the top, and the dodgier independents at the bottom, check.
His flyer (a single, 1/3 page affair, printed on recycled paper) tells me that Pulford is a renter living in Coburg, who works for a non-profit tackling the climate crisis. His priorities are:
- protect what we love about Moreland
- champion more public and active transport
- deliver more parks and open spaces
- act on climate and protect the local environment and
- improve our community services
Very classic Green, that – community is important, but the environment comes first (and, to be fair, one can make an excellent argument that without a liveable environment, you don’t have a community anyway. I just find it easier to connect to people things than environment things).
I’m having an unexpected amount of difficulty tracking down specific policies from Pulford, though presumably they would align with the Greens’ State and Federal policies, which I commented on most recently in 2019 and 2018 respectively, and appear to be relatively unchanged. The major one I can find is about Re-Wilding Moreland ‘by planting 1 million indigenous trees, plants and grassses by on public and private land in Moreland by 2030.’
I did find his campaign video from when he ran for Wills last year, which talks about things like being a renter and housing injustice, how older women are the fastest growing group of people facing poverty, about the environment, the importance of diversity and fairness, and holding major parties to account. All of these are good things, and it’s nice to have a candidate with an awareness of these wider issues, but it’s less useful at a local government level.
We do better once it comes to the various candidate forums – he has answered everyone’s surveys, committed to the Rainbow Pledge, and is very keen on making things safer for walkers and cyclists – more bike paths, lower speed limits, fixing footpaths, etc. He is big on the climate emergency, as one might expect, and on renewables. But I’ll be honest – I’m finding myself subtly disappointed. More than anyone else so far, he sounds like a politician. Admittedly, he sounds like a politician with stances that I agree with, but there is an air of communicating a party line. And in places it feels like a slightly more old-school, dogmatic version of the Greens party line. This wouldn’t bother me if he were running at the State or Federal level, but I have a – possibly unreasonable – feeling that at a local government level I want someone who is responding to the issues at hand with a local focus, rather than being wedded to the best interests of the wider party.
I do, generally, agree with the Greens, so I expect Pulford to wind up in the top third of my ticket. But he’s not in the running for first place at this point.
Dr Haissam Naim is a GP who practices at the Cedar Clinic in Coburg.
His How to Vote Card is not promising – he preferences Farah, Failla and Timpano, Ul Murtaza, Helou and Thiveos, before going on a reverse donkey spree up the ticket. I’m fascinated by Ul Murtaza’s presence in this mix – everyone else seems to be the older-generation conservative faction in this election (I mean, conservative by People’s Republic of Moreland standards, of course – we don’t really have a traditional conservative wing here), but Ul Murtaza is definitely in the progressive sphere.
Naim’s flyer tells me that he believes that ‘Councillors need to be doers and not just the Councillor from last election with no significant changes being seen’. He is keen to point out that independents have no hidden agenda and don’t have to answer to the political hierarchy. After my comments on Pulford, I really can’t argue with that. His flyer also contains the odd statement:
Speaking every day with ordinary Moreland residents, I can feel the uncertainty they crave in their voices.
I am honestly not quite sure what he was trying to say there.
His flyer leans heavily on his experience as a doctor working in the Moreland community, which he feels gives him unique insight into the community. His policies include a ‘safe, tailored local COVID recovery plan’, that includes awareness, provision of hygiene materials, clinical insight, and a campaign to support local businesses. He will also fight to freeze rates, to improve the local economy with a ‘Made in Moreland’ awareness campaign, engage with local police to improve community safety and, of course, make sure town planning is done properly.
This is, essentially, the conservative Moreland package with a medical twist. Not my cup of tea, but fine as far as it goes.
The trouble is, I also Googled Naim, just as I do with all the other candidates, and the results were rather troubling. I encourage you to do the same, but in brief, the the first thing that came up was an article about a Dr Haissam Naim who was found guilty of misconduct and deregistered for 12 months after allegedly performing an ‘unnecessary and invasive internal examination’ on a woman who presented with facial spasms.
According to the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency, there is only one Dr Haissam Naim practicing in Australia. The tribunal decision can be found on his record.
So I guess I won’t be voting for him, then.
Edited to add: I’d like to direct your attention to the conversation in the comments on this post, from which I understand that Dr Naim was found not guilty in the criminal case relating to these allegations, and is fighting to have the tribunal decision overturned. If that happens, I’ll amend this article accordingly.
I’m not going to comment further, apart from providing an update if the tribunal decision is overturned, because this is not something I am able to be objective about. The trouble with giving one person the benefit of the doubt in a case such as this is that it immediately paints the other person as a liar, and I don’t want to re-victimise anyone.
Moreland Labor is the local branch chapter of the ALP, and is fielding three candidates, of whom Carli Hannan, a current Councillor is the first on the ticket. They have a 26-page Poplicy Platform for Moreland, which I will not attempt to summarise here, because their own summary is a full 4 pages long! But highlights include
- Development that respects neighbourhood character, provides parking, and links in with public transport
- Open and accountable government
- Support local businesses that have suffered from the pandemic
- Keep rates low
- Support fair parking, lower speed limits, and more bicycle lanes
- Develop more parkland
- Maintain and upgrade sporting facilities
- Support expanded childrens’ services and childcare, lobby for more funding for home care, expand youth services, support affordable housing, and ‘promote an inclusive Moreland community that provides access and equity to people with disability, their families and careers’
- Build an arts precinct in Brunswick and arts infrastructure in the northern areas of the municipality
- Support libraries!
- Advocate for climate action, and encourage recycling.
Lots of good stuff here, though I’d note that they are pretty light on for environmental / climate policy.
Moreland Labor’s How To Vote Card favours Elachkar and Glover (Reason Party) followed by Timpano, and then is essentially a donkey vote down the rest of the ballot. Elachkar seems like a sweet guy who isn’t going to get far, and the Reason Party is usually a sound choice, but their choice to actively preference Timpano ahead of the donkey vote strikes me as questionable.
Carli Hannan leans on her experience as a councillor, a mother, and a social worker – she wants to advocate for families, because the understands the pressures they face. She sent residents a letter last week with a list of her top priorities. These are:
- reversing the decision to cut bin collection from weekly to fortnightly (which… yes, I know we create too much waste, but ESPECIALLY now that I’m at home full time and so many things are delivered, fortnightly would be very hard);
- opposing the new changes to parking (2 hour restrictions in residential streets, limited permit access);
- reviving local business;
- investing in parks, open spaces and sporting facilities, particularly for women;
- supporting childcare and aged services;
- keeping rates low. (Incidentally, on the latter, they say that Labor is the only party on council that supports limiting raises to CPI, which may be technically true but only if you don’t count Sue Bolton’s merry band of socialists as a party.)
Carli Hannan has signed the Rainbow pledge, and gets a moderate score on the Community Engagement index. She gets a thumbs up from Fair Parking, and responded to the Bicycle User Group survey in a fairly positive, but rather uninspiring fashion, but didn’t engage with Walk On Moreland. Her responses to the climate action survey are very pro-tree, which is good, but when asked for her top four priorities as a counsellor, none of these were environment or climate related.
Overall, I think Carli Hannan is very likely to get voted back on to Council, and I think she will do a good job there. Her priorities are all worthwhile things, but they are not mine. She is going to wind up somewhere in the middle of my ballot paper, below the candidates who excite me, but probably at the top of the ones who I am neutral about. And it won’t matter one bit, because I really don’t think she will need my vote to get in!
BEST OF THE BATCH
Ul Murtaza seems absolutely lovely, and Pulford and Carli Hannan are both sollid candidates, but this time around, it’s Sue Bolton, all the way. To the barricades, comrades!