AS A political exercise it was an abject failure.
Three candidates, of the nine standing for election in the Island ward of the Bass Coast Shire; Kimberley Brown, Michael Whelan and Phil Wright, had organised a candidates’ night in Melbourne last week.
Billed as the ‘Island Independents Come to Town’ and staged in a meeting room at the Box Hill Town Hall last Tuesday, the event was a nice idea, the object being to take the election campaign to the thousands of Island holiday home owners who can vote but don’t live locally.
However the occasion was in trouble from the outset with only 17 people turning up, half of them allegedly Island residents anyway who’d only come down to town for a sticky beak and there was no sign of Kimberley Brown.
Ms Brown had apparently sent a message to one of her colleagues to say she was caught in traffic but ultimately was a “no show”.
Some at the meeting claimed there had been no notice of the meeting.
Michael Whelan and Phil Wright soldiered on anyway and managed to cover most if not all the issues that have so far been raised in the campaign:
Protection of the north shore from erosion, the new waste management contract, the future of tourism, maintaining town boundaries, problems at the Cowes boat ramp, worsening traffic management on the Island, increases in rates, the failure by the Federal Government to fund the Cowes Revitalisation Project, the unfair split of shire spending between Phillip Island and the mainland, the new shire ward boundaries, health services and the contribution by PINP and the Penguin Parade to the local economy.
On the boat ramp:
Cr Wright said he didn’t want to comment on the boat ramp which he said was a “terrible embarrassment” and “a disaster”.
Mr Whelan said it was necessary to understand the importance of recreational fishing and boating to the local economy.
On the airport subdivision:
Michael Whelan said the development of the airport for housing would be a disaster and the maintenance of existing town boundaries was the main reason he was standing.
Cr Wright agreed, saying that Wonthaggi was where housing growth should be directed, something that couldn’t happen if the Island broke away.
They covered each issue in this fashion.
But there was also heat generated too, like when Island resident Jason Cameron challenged Mr Whelan about why he felt he needed to “throw muck” at people just because they had a different view.
He accused Cameron of being a “Greg Price Acolyte” and said “I’ve got the floor” when the questioner took umbrage.
“They are trying to take over the shire with Standalone,” he said.
“And we’ve got a negative press that has harangued the sitting councillors to get a
different outcome.”
Mr Whelan and a member of the community also had an exchange over his efforts to blame Standalone for the failure to attract $5.5 million in Federal Government grant money for the Cowes Revitalisation project.
There was more, and challenged by Cr Wright on his Facebook page about the Sentinel reporter who “feverishly took two and a half hours of notes and it will be interesting to see what his report states when paper comes next week” we’ll have an expanded report on our website this week at www.sgst.com.au
Ballot papers must be posted or returned by 6pm this Friday, October 21.