Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Prahran: A Letter from Clem

Although politics in Australia is becoming increasingly presidential, with a centralised campaign focusing on a strong leader, there are come candidates who are rediscovering their own backyard.

This has been the strategy of Liberal candidate Clem Newton-Brown. Though he's a candidate for state office, he has no problem in getting involved in very local issues. So local, in fact, that they are issues that are not the responsibility of state government at all, but are instead in the hands of the bunnies in Town Hall. Perhaps it's a throwback to his days on Melbourne City Council.

The first issue for Newton-Brown was the life-or-death issue of the opening hours of the local pool. With a high quality postcard delivered in the midst of summer heat a few weeks back, NB identified it as (quite literally) a hot-button issue. With the cute kids on the front and the simple but effective argument on the back, it was hard not to sympathise with the cause.

Prahran pool postcard

Prahran pool postcard (back)

Saturday 6pm... 38 Degrees... Prahran Pool Closed!
The Prahran Pool is the most significant community asset we have. It provides a meeting point for locals, a play centre for families with young kids and affordable access to regular exercise for lap swimmers. It is also one of the few places for people to escape the heat of summer in the inner city.

So why close the pool at 6pm on weekend and 7.30pm midweek?

If you would like to see pool hours extended to 8pm daily, please SMS your support to 0411 255 179 or drop into my office at 151 High St Prahran and sign my petition.

Best wishes, Clem Newton-Brown


Leter, just a few weeks ago, Newton-Brown picked up on another issue likely to win hearts and minds: parking. In a well coordinated campaign, Newton-Brown argued strongly against the introduction of parking meters in local commercial shopping areas. Throughout May shopfronts along Chapel Street and Toorak Road were plastered in A4 posters promoting the campaign, posters which emphasise the issue ahead of the personality, but still managing to find room for Clem's smiling face.

Clem and the cars
Say "No" to Parking Meters


As I've argued previously, free-marketers should in fact embrace the responsible application of charges for motor vehicle use. In the spirit of user pays, and the need to ration the use of a scarce public resource (ie parking spaces), parking meters are a fine idea. Policy makers of all persuasions who approach the issue based on sound public policy rather than popular politics are likely to see the merits of parking meters, but alas this debate occurs in the midst of a heated election campaign.

Taken as a package, these aspects to Newton-Brown's campaign seem rather disingenuous. The issues of the local pool and parking meters are both clearly in the domain of local government. Are the voters of Prahran really expected to be so ignorant of where responsibilities lie that they will turn to a state candidate to address a local issue? Rather than actually seeking to address the issues identified, the campaign is instead about Newton-Brown establishing his local credentials.

Voters concerned about either local pools or parking meters will rightly address their concerns to the folks at the City of Stonnington, the governmental body actually responsible for these things. Voters who want to achieve nothing but feel like their middle-class grievances have been heard will no doubt vote Liberal.

Next up we look forward to Newton-Brown's model for industrial relations reform, gay marriage and peace in the Middle East, all of which are issues that Newton-Brown has equally little influence over.

1 comment:

Peter Parker said...

Sounds like he's taken a leaf out of Bentleigh MLA Rob Hudson's book. Hudson has been organising petitions re the East Bentleigh pool, which the council was investingating closure.

As for pay parking at shopping strips, I support it, but only if it also applied to centres like Chadstone and 'big box' retailers.

Doing the former and not the latter would reduce business in transit-oriented centres and reinforce car-dominated centres.

Melbourne's transit-oriented development is one of this city's unheralded achievements, and paradoxically it is my support for this that would lead me to oppose parking charges at such centres in the absence of similar charges everywhere.