THE state government, the Local Government Inspectorate and the Victorian Electoral Commission should give serious consideration to calling off the Bass Coast Shire Council elections.
Not only did we have the situation last Friday where sensational allegations involving one of the nominated candidates in the election were publicly released, but it is by no means clear how many of the other candidates are also involved.
The timing of the release of those allegations, involving Bunurong Ward Councillor Les Larke, was clearly chosen to have maximum impact on Cr Larke’s chances of being re-elected with voting set to commence, when voter packs go out, as early as Tuesday next week, October 6.
Constrained by confidentiality, Cr Larke can’t defend himself, even if he was able to, and will almost certainly lose the vote.
Notwithstanding the difficulties he has created for the shire bureaucracy and his fellow councillors, with his own particular style of inquiry, over the past four years, his absence could prove crucial on a council finely balanced between social and economic considerations.
But there’s also the matter of the release of three councillor emails which allegedly support the claims that Cr Larke offered to support projects in his council colleagues’ wards, with his own money, if they voted him in as mayor in 2018.
Cr Larke has vehemently rejected these claims.
Who knows what has really gone on here, but the public deserves to know and if the situation has so compromised the outcome of the election and therefore the make up of the council for the next four years, the election should be stopped and stopped now.
But don’t hold your breath.
If the alleged failures in the leadership of the Department of Health and Human Services, as alluded to by the Premier and his former health minister over the weekend, are any indication of the malaise in the public service and government, with its risk-averse attitude and control exerted by vested interests, there’s little likelihood of the widespread problems in local government in this state ever being addressed.