MRI is part of the Victorian Portfolio of Ratepayers Australia incorporated. We advocate for ratepayers and residents in Monash. Our Monash advocacy interests are about (a) assuring good governance in Council affairs; (b) ensuring and sustaining affordable rates and best value municipal services; (c) building capacity for our Monash community. Click ABOUT US to find out more.
Review of the Monash Council 2018/19 budget draft presents an opportunity for exercising community oversight of the Monash council’s governance performance in budget planning. Hence, we commemorate Monash council for this community participation. However, the acid test remains, ie to prove the review is not a tokenistic and click-box activity and that budget planning conduct and results demonstrate good governance principles. Our review results identified gaps in good governance in the budget plan.
Advocating for the Monash community, Monash Ratepayers appraised the budgeted estimates for the next 4 years, including comparing them with the financial forecasts submitted to the Essential Service Commission (ESC), which seeks to request a higher rate variation from the cap.
We conclude from the budget analysis findings that (click 2018-19 Budget Anaysis V2 to view the details):
- Monash Council’s proposal to increase average rate above the cap is unnecessary, because the annual $1.5 million shortfall in waste costs can be readily absorbed by reducing the 2018/19 budgeted surplus and/or unrestricted cash provisions for the next four years.
- In the next Strategic Planning Cycle (4 years), the council is not demonstrating resolve to deliver efficiencies to the Monash community. Efficiency is a principle of good governance and is embedded in the LG Act as an attribute of a council’s legislated objectives and governance performance. Hence it is critical the Fair Go Rate continues to cap rates, as a good governance oversight and intervention mechanism, to strengthen encouraging Monash Council to improve its productivity and efficiency in the longer future.
We also found that employee costs also have risen above 2.25%, the average rate cap set by the LG Minister, to align council rates to CPI.
We conclude that the 2018/19 budget draft is not a community responsive and responsible budget. We highly recommend changes to be made, to address the identified governance deficiencies.
Footnote:  Because of China’s ban on receiving foreign recycled materials, the Mayor has claimed that there is an increase cost of $1.5 million that council must fund annually for continuing its recycling service.
Effective from 9 Sep 2017, MRI is no longer a chapter of the Eastern Ratepayers group.Its new strategic directions no longer align with those of the Eastern Ratepayers group.
MRI has decided to play a more value adding role in developing ratepayers and residents capacity building, from local to national impact. MRI has joined Ratepayers Australia Inc (incorporated A0100027J) to contribute to the future-proofing of good governance in councils. It will operate as part of Ratepayers Australia’s Victorian portfolio and upscale its local advocacy capacity building and performance as a professional local peak body in ratepayers and residents’ representation, as Monash’s new professional community of practice in ratepayers/residents advocacy development and the future-proofing of good governance in Monash council.
MRI is officially a chapter of Ratepayers Australia, collaborating with several ratepayer leaders to share governance scrutiny information about councils across the state.
MONASH COUNCIL: GOVERNANCE IN CRISIS
by Monash Ratepayers
Recently Monash Mayor Lake stirred up attention about conduct management issues during public meetings, of course blaming others and not himself. As the interest is about conduct, it is time that MRI evaluates the governance performance of Mayor Lake. This evaluation examines two areas:
- The hypocrisy, conflict of interest and governance issues in the Mayor’s per project – Alliance for Gambling Reform, which he discretionary gave away $25K to this MAV lead project with no accountability of outcome indicators and knowing that the project duplicates the State’s wee developed and active gambling program. Simply put he cost-shifted our money to a MAV project.
- The Mayor’s issues of hypocrisy, conflict of interest and lacking governance performance.
(1) Monash Gambling Program Management Performance:
City of Monash Public Health Approach to Gambling Policy Statement 2016 – 2020
has been produced under the banner “ Access & Equity Framework 2015-2020”
- So how can Monash exclude certain groups from receiving funding if Council adheres to its own criteria of Access and Equity?
- Contradictions and Discrimination within City of Monash Public Health Approach to Gambling Policy Statement 2016-2020 refer to Agenda Item 2.2. Attachment 1. 31 May 2016 Council Meeting
“1.12 Council will request that all venue operators make a financial contribution to services and agencies that address the impacts of gambling in the Monash community, for example Gambler’s Help, community health or neighbourhood houses services (Page 17)
“2.7 Council will maintain independence from the gambling industry. Council will not accept financial contributions from gambling venues and will not promote community grants or initiatives offered by local poker machine venues (Page 18)
“4.3 Council staff will not run Council and community events, activities, programs and social outings in venues that have EGMs
“4.4 Through the Monash Community Grants Program, Council will not fund community groups who meet in venues that have EGMs
“4.5 Council will not provide community grants, funding, sponsorship, Council facilities, publicity or promotion for community groups/organisations that promote gambling. All relevant Council guidelines will align with this policy position
“4.6 Council will not support community groups participating in gambling activity and will seek to increase the awareness of community groups to the harms of gambling through information provision and referral to non-gambling community activities and services”
Unintended consequence? Many groups are involved in Community Raffles or conduct their own raffles, and these are deemed a form of gambling!
- Passed (without due diligence) by Monash Council on Tuesday 31 May 2016, the 2016-2020 Gambling Policy Statement does not allow Monash Council to accept money derived from gambling activities. *It is noted that Cr Davies and Cr Zographos did not support the policy.
- Treasury and Finance distributes Community Support Fund money to Councils that has been received from revenue generated from Electronic Gaming Machines (EGMs) in hotels
- Therefore Monash Council can neither accept nor distribute Community Support Fund (CSF) money previously received from Treasury and Finance as Monash would be ignoring its own policy.
- Therefore the amounts of at least $118,000 [and $25,000?] marked as income from State Government Grants Community Programs in the Council Budget for 2015-16 cannot be received into Council’s coffers. Nor can any other monies from similar grants be received where the money has come via gambling.
- Therefore it is pointless for Council to threaten groups with not providing grants to groups meeting in venues with EGMs as Council will not be funding any groups via this revenue source anyway.
- In addition – there is a no proven correlation between the “problem (pokies) gambler” and community group membership, where group meets in a venue that has EGMs.
(2) LEADERSHIP & GOVERNANCE ISSUES
MAYOR LAKE’S HIDDEN AGENDA
The aim of the proposed exclusion (from funding) of Community Groups currently using rooms in Pokies Venues (most often offered to them free of charge) it seems is to bribe community groups into using Council Facilities at Community Rates; (see pages 98 onwards for rates per hour in Budget 2015-16)……and to ensure a pool of needy groups willing to utilise Cr Geoff Lake’s dream 6000 sq m Library-hub proposed for the Central Car Park Site.
Not obvious to many is that the development of the proposed 5 storey Library Hub means selling this prime land of 7114 sq m in Glen Waverley and therefore removes the entire Central Car Park. It’s sale will allow adjacent high rise towers of 10, 15 (or higher) storeys between Coleman Parade and Railway Parade North; between Kingsway and Springvale Road. (It should be noted that multiple community consultations confirmed that residents wanted this land left as open space and car parking, underground. There was no business case for such a library – especially on this site)
Lake’s preference to support endless construction in the Glen Waverley Activity Centre and to service developers whilst denying community’s wishes, is concerning. Especially as he has revealed he has accepted at least one overseas trip (to Japan and China) funded by property developer/ financier Blackrock Real Estate Asia Fund II and Blackrock Real Estate Europe Fund II (also a substantial investment choice, at approx. $80 million, of Vision Super*). (*see Link 2. below)
MAYOR GEOFF LAKE’S CONFLICTS OF INTEREST AND HYPOCRISY
LINK 1. Cr Geoff Lake is a Director on the Board of Muncipal Association of Victoria [MAV] . He is on the MAV Board while he remains as a Councillor at Monash Council
Via the 26 April 2016 Council Meeting Cr Geoff Lake proposed and coerced Monash Council to commit $25,000 to support his own self-serving “creation”, The Alliance for Gambling Reform , (AFGR) even though, concurrent with the Alliance’s inception, on 30/6/2015 Council Meeting Item 7.3, Cr Lake is recorded as stating it would not have a financial impact on Monash Council if Council supported a Memorandum of Understanding with AFGR.
Not surprisingly, Cr Lake is the self-appointed Chair of the Alliance for Gambling Reform. The website www.pokiesplayyou.org.au clearly shows that its platform is specifically focused against gambling via electronic gaming machines at pokies venues despite this being only one of many forms of legal gambling.
The Alliance’s donations page https://gx.nationbuilder.com/donate confirms:
“The Alliance for Gambling Reform is proudly independent. We do not, and will not accept money from any organisation or individual with a financial interest in any part of the gambling industry.”
“We are 100% funded by donations from individuals and foundations that do not have any ties with the gambling industry We are not affiliated with any political party.”
No budget is apparent for why AFGR is entitled to this $25,000 and due to the criteria above, it is understood that Monash Ratepayers’ money (not CSF money) will be diverted to this organisation purely to secure Cr Lake’s relevance as a Director of the MAV. In short, Cr Lake siphons money “out” of Monash Council to the MAV (now in control of AFGR) in order to replicate services offered and delivered already via the State Government’s Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation.
*$25,000 is a considerable sum to hand over to an external organisation not based in Monash. In comparison,very small amounts are provided to worthy Monash Community Groups and only after time-consuming grant applications have been submitted. *It is considered this is an inappropriate donation especially in the light of Neighbourhood Watch for Monash residents has had its funding cut; Waverley War Widows will not be provided grant if they meet in RSL! Is this ignorance or irony – when Sir John Monash, the Council’s namesake, was a revered returned serviceman?
Providing this money to AFGR contradicts Monash’s own guidelines:-
“(Monash) Council does not fund projects that duplicate existing public or private programs”.
So how can Council substantiate funding The Alliance for Gambling Reform?
MAYOR GEOFF LAKE’S CONFLICTS OF INTEREST AND HYPOCRISY
LINK 2. Cr Lake is a Director of Vision Super Pty Ltd due to his nomination to that Board by the MAV. He is also the Chair of the Investment Committee of Vision Super . He is a Director of Pooled Super Pty Ltd. NOTE Vision Super is the default superannuation fund of Council Employees including Monash employees.
Cr Lake boasts, as representative of Vision Super from June 2009 – Present (7 years), that he is responsible for “developing new investment beliefs, drafting new investment policies”, and “as a director of the fund I am jointly responsible as part of the board for shaping strategy, overseeing investments, governance, performance, compliance, risk management and stakeholder relationships.”
As Chair of the Vision Super Investment Committee he supports Aristocrat Leisure Limited as one of their top 20 stockholdings. Aristocrat Leisure Limited is one of the world’s leading providers of gaming solutions and one of the largest manufacturers of poker machines in the world.. licensed in 240 gaming jurisdictions in 90 countries.
*DIRECT HYPOCRISY with regard to his role as Chair of Alliance for Gambling Reform – via Vision Super Cr Lake invests millions of dollars in shares in Aristocrat, the producer of EGM’s and yet campaigns against them? Go figure?
MAYOR GEOFF LAKE’S CONFLICTS OF INTEREST AND HYPOCRISY
LINK 3. , Cr Lake is member of the Administrative Committee of the Australian Labor Party [ALP]
ALP receives donations from Unions – for example, those involved in construction of all these towers! and from gambling revenue derived from (ALP owned) Labor Clubs. Pokies owned and operated by the CFMEU or the ACT ALP through their licensed gambling clubs.The ALP State Conference 2016 will be held at the Moonee Valley Racecourse –oops Cr Lake – a gambling venue!
MAYOR GEOFF LAKE’S HYPOCRISY
From various other benefactors Cr Lake has accepted free entry to the Men’s Semi Final and Final Australian Open 2015, AFL Grand Final 2015, Cricket, Oaks Day Flemington , i.e each Sportsbet / TAB giants. Is this elitist snobbery? Practice what you preach Geoff. Lead by example not by threats.
MAYOR GEOFF LAKE’S HYPOCRISY and NON COMPLIANCE
Mayor Geoff Lake should adhere to Monash Council’s Access and Equity policy– his latest orders imposed on Councillors and Public on 31 May 2016, contravene basic human rights. Threatening members of the public voicing disapproval with Removal; being Charged with an Offence and Fines of 2 Penalty Units (i.e. $300) shows his frustration at not making it through to being a Barrister or Magistrate! These are conditions imposed by Magistrates for breaches of Court Orders.
His manic controlling behaviour, emulating dictatorship, was highlighted on 31 May 2016 as he continued to humiliate Councillors whilst treating them like his children as he forced them to sign his ridiculous onerous codes of conduct (whilst excluding himself from these actions). His despotic “Hands on Head” requirement of Councillors, instead of allowing hand raising, was amplified by his refusal to demonstrate the action when asked to do so by attending journalist ….because HE FOUND IT TOO DEMORALISING. Is it unreasonable to expect that he’ll be forcing Councillors to kiss his feet next?
“Principle 1: Human Rights
Human rights are the universal rights of all people to be treated with respect, equality and dignity. The Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities 2006 (The Charter) protects and promotes human rights by recognising that all people are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
Monash Council observes the rights incorporated in the Charter when making decisions, creating local laws, developing policies and strategies and providing services.”
MORE CONTROLLING BEHAVIOUR:
- Espousing transparency yet REFUSAL to Video Council Meetings as these would incriminate himself.
- INSTIGATION of AUDIO taping of Council Meetings for his (GL’S) ears only – not the other Councillors. Destruction of the tape prior to the next council meeting! The Point?
BACKGROUND – COUNCILLORS CODE OF CONDUCT PASSED SEPT 2013
- Act honestly
- Not mislead
- Exercise reasonable care, and diligence
- Accept scrutiny
- Ensure resources are used prudently; solely in the public interest
Cr Geoff Lake failed on ALL counts.
CR GEOFF LAKE ‘S MULTIPLE CONFLICTS OF INTEREST; NON COMPLIANCE AND HYPOCRISY CANNOT BE IGNORED. HE DOES NOT REPRESENT THE COMMUNITY. DEMONSTRABLE SELF-INTEREST DEEMS HIM UNFIT TO REMAIN AS A REPRESENTATIVE OF MONASH.
Prepared by Lynnette Saloumi, President Monash Ratepayers Chapter of Eastern Ratepayers Inc Lynnette.firstname.lastname@example.org
Cr Lake’s past to present bullying behaviour is not the only concern for the Monash Community.
He sits on many superannuation boards and a private equity and property funds company. While he is a director of Vision Super (the fund management entity that manage the Defined Superannuation funds for council employees), he also own shares.
It is common knowledge that many superannuation funds are the key players in property investments – they fund property developers. Cr Lake leads the Glen Waverley Activity Centre subcommittee, and a key influencer in directing the massive redevelopment of Glen Waverley and the sale of the Glen Waverley central car park. Obviously he did not consider any conflict of interest between his personal and council work to date, because he did not declare any potential conflict of interest, even indirect ones.
Alarm bells were ringing last year when the Mayne report (July, 2015) highlighted that Lake failed to disclose that he is pocketing $70,000 a year from his Vision Super board seat as one of two representatives of the Municipal Association of Victoria. The report said “He wouldn’t be getting this much as deputy chair without the voting support of the four ASU directors and broader support from Labor councillors in Victoria. At City of Melbourne, we have a policy that councillors appointed to board seats return any fees paid to council. This is just one of many governance issues at the MAV which Lake, as a former President and the longest serving director, needs to sort out following this damning report by the Victorian Auditor General earlier this year.”
The 26 April 2016 Waverley Leader recently reported that he is regular recipient of gifts, which the Monash community hears for the first time, including his connections with Asian targeted property investment funds, which fund property developers.
The redevelopment saga of Glen Waverley’s central car park has attracted another community option for best value consideration by Monash Council. This new community option, called People’s Park, was developed as a result of consulting local residents, traders, local school parents and other Monash ratepayers and residents and conducting due diligent business case research. The proposal is a substantiated and viable alternative for redeveloping the central car park, in addition to Cr Lake’s option.
This People’s Park option proposes partnership with Apple to build an underground technology retail and multimedia library center with two additional levels of underground car parks.
It recommends more and viable funding choices than Cr Lake’s option, which only pursues to sell the car park to fund a new library and a small public space, and allow high density developments that will threaten the feng shui of Glen Waverley and increase local population without providing local and green open space in close proximity. The sale of the central car park will also mean the loss of GW’s most prized land that can potentially provide the local community and shoppers scarce green open space amenities and services.
March’s meeting documentation has revealed continuing preference for Cr Lake’s option to progress into Request for Tender. Quality due diligent information to substantiate Cr Lake’s option against the John Monash Multicultural Square (JMMS) proposal (put in by another community group) was lacking, as there was the absence of evidence based business case information and a best value evaluation framework, resulting in the GW subcommittee (lead by Cr Lake) and council staff making subjective recommendations to reject the JMMS proposition. In the three public community consultation sessions (attended by more than 150 people) that Council has organized to discuss the fate of the central car park, MRI representatives who attended all 4 meetings, including the JMMS one, had witnessed over 95% of participants did not want the new library and high rise developments and prefer the central car park remain an open space. This strong non support for Cr lake’s library was never documented clearly in council’s public records. However, the March meeting documentation continues to misrepresent the strong Monash community’s non support for Cr Lake’s option during the community consultations and instead presented information that says otherwise.
Like the selling of Monash and Elizabeth Gardens aged care facilities in 2013 and the deliberate and the long standing deficit financial management of the Euvena carpark, Cr Lake is once again leading and strengthening group-think decision making towards selling the central car park to fund and build a state of the art new library in the Glen Waverley central car park, a personal obsession that he willed on his constituents since the 2012 election, despite the community’s strong non support for his obsession.
Party politics stricken Councillors representing their own interests first is the growing new black in Monash, a proven fact also recently supported by the Waverley Leader, reporting the lateness and poor governance of council meeting in March and their growing failure to represent the community’s views.
Ratepayers and residents concerned about Council’s one direction for redeveloping the Glen Waverley central car park should have their say at a Community Consultation session at Monash Council Glen Waverley on Thursday 28 Jan 7pm. A residents’ investigation aka citizen jury report explains why:
Non-residents and political career hopefuls Councillors Klisaris and Lake are once again imposing another monumental and potentially costly mistake in the form of a library and community hub adjacent to yet another inappropriate high rise on the Central Car Park site, in order to justify their disastrous Euneva Car Park. Lacking in business acumen, they did not get it right with the financial management of operating Euneva Car Park, such as ignoring opportunities for it to attract fees for all day parking. With such poor decisions, should the Monash community trust them with another spending spree?
If the proposed library and community hub usage reflects that of Euneva car-park, it will be under utilised from day one.
Glen Waverley property sales turned over $885 Million in the 12 months to Nov 2015, second (in Australia) only to Mosman in Sydney. Like comparing apples and bananas, does our Council seriously think that the Monash demographic, residing in its 81 sq km, requires ratepayers to upgrade its sixth community funded regional library to mirror the size and criteria of Geelong’s new regional library? Geelong has a lower SEIFA index, higher unemployment and was the recipient of $25 million in state and federal funding for their Regional Library and Heritage (Archive) Centre servicing an area of 1249 sq km. Furthermore, the Geelong library is located on the site of the original 750sq m Geelong library, with views of Corio Bay is adjacent to the large Johnstone Park, and therefore its location does not interfere with commercial precincts. In contrast, Glen Waverley residents and its schools are well equipped to provide technology to those who need it but there will be a lack of open space and social connectedness if all land is swallowed by developers. Open all hours and to everyone, free public open space allows equal access and does not discriminate.
Lifeline received over million calls for help in 2015. “Lifeline Australia CEO Pete Shmigel CEO has said Australians’ emotional well being was not in sync with their material wealth. They have three digital devices and sometimes that technology, as great as it is, can also enhance our feelings of loneliness, our feelings of isolation.” ( Ref: 13 Jan 2016 ABC reporter Eliza Laschon).
For the mental and physical health of all in the community and to facilitate ongoing economic activity in the southern end of Kingsway – it’s imperative we retain the whole of the Central Car Park site a public open space, with free WiFi above ground and an underground car park below, as it will be Glen Waverley’s most valuable asset for all to enjoy for decades to come.
EU (you) NEVA (never) want to park here
In attempts to woo motorists to this unpopular 3 ½ year old parking option, Council decided to spend $57,000 on lighting this eyesore, and on the days leading up to Christmas, the Euneva Ave Car Park was advertised on two electronic Traffic Management Signs on either side of Kingsway. However, despite these measures, at 11.20am pre-Christmas on 22 December 2015 Euneva housed 113 cars i.e.35% full and at 2.40pm on Friday 8 January 2016 only 65 cars i.e. 20% parked there. In contrast the popular Central Car Park was full on both occasions.
Therefore, many Monash constituents are increasingly viewing that their self-absorbed councillors are playing ‘Monopoly’ with ratepayers money as if it were their own, to build the new library on the Central Car Park site, in order to force cars of clientele of Kingsway and surrounds, into the inconveniently located Euneva Car Park. Euneva now, and always should have been, available for all day ‘destination’ parking, but it is being reserved for limited parking to satisfy the development of Cr lake’s dream library he imposed on his constituents as his self decided election goal.
In July 2015 the Council approved a $500 million redevelopment of The Glen, and in turn ignored future height controls for buildings along Sneddon Avenue. The ‘new’ Glen will include 3,800 car spaces. Shopping centres very often allow unrestricted parking in order to encourage consumers to increase their time within the centres to maximise spending. Once captured, few will venture outside i.e. to the old Kingsway strip, especially as dining and entertainment has been muted as one of the ‘new’ Glen’s focus.
In recent years Kingsway has diversified from traditional retail to that of food and entertainment strip with late night trading embraced by locals and visitors. To continue to have one hour car parking in front of restaurants and cinemas reflects the disconnect between the council officers who are in control [yet themselves get free parking], and their ignorance of real life consequences as it discriminates against Kingsway traders and their customers. The new one hour electronically monitored constraint does not allow drivers to park one minute late the moment their cars get scanned electronically. This increase car parking penalty fines, as an indirect strategy of new fund raising used by many councils, because of capped rates legislation commencing next financial year.
In Sept 2015 parking overstay devices (PODS) were installed in Monash, including in Kingsway, rear of the existing Library and Council Offices, and the Central Car Park to enforce disproportionate penalties on patrons parking overtime in the immediate vicinity of Kingsway’s food and entertainment precinct. The signage associated with these PODS is fastened with flimsy cable ties, not explanatory of the fines that could be incurred and are often at *right angles to the parking signs and not noticed by motorists. Overstay fines jump from $76 to around $100 if left unpaid. Park and display ticketing options would have been fairer and more acceptable.
While Cr Lake has consistently insist that Monash Council will not charge car parking, he also contradicts the GWAC Transport Plan that confirms that the council is considering a car parking fee scheme. The GWAC structural plan also stated the city planning goal is to make GW a primary pedestrian realm and the transport plan indicates that council will cost shift car parking problem management to the state to find alternatives in other public areas.