The City of Darebin based on Melbourne’s inner-northern suburbs was long considered the bastion of former Preston MP and Labor Unity stalwart Michael Leighton, a low-profile yet formidable political operator.
This year’s election saw a significant change with the retirement and promotion of several of the torch-bearers of the Leighton machine, including Marlene Kairouz who became the MLA for Kororoit after a bruising preselection fight.
At the recent poll, the Labor Unity stronghold saw the election of the first Greens councillor ever and the restoration of two folks normally seen as Socialist Left aligned.
Their success was variously described as either a surprise or the inevitable consequence of the foolish Local Government Minister Richard Wynne’s establishment of Senate style voting systems in local municipality that encourage the election of Greens party activists and reduce the accountability inherent in single-member wards.
The most notable result of all though was the triumphant re-election of Councillor Diana Asmar, who works at the Transport Workers Union. Asmar worked in close conjunction with her friend Steve Tsitas who was elected in the same ward, in the southern end of the municipality. That’s also where the Greenist Trent McCarthy popped up, courtesy of their friend the Minister for Local Government.
To the north, in Cazaly Ward, the Asmar aligned patriot and educator Nick Katsis was elected after a very strong campaign, with other Labor Unity aligned folk, the HSU’s Ben Morgan and Vince Fontana. Interestingly, Fontana was once aligned with the Leighton/Robin Scott machine but is believed to have had something of a falling out of late.
And in LaTrobe Ward, the Left did surprisingly well with the crafty communications strategist Tim Laurence running a tough campaign that ruthlessly sledged incumbent Stanley Chiang. The Leighton/Robin Scott aligned Chiang fought back capably, with a mighty army of volunteers and did well to be re-elected. Laurence did so well in his cunning campaign plans – that included pledges of rates and waste cuts of the Reagan School – that he also got his sidekick, the quirky beret wearer Gaetano Greco elected. Not a bad effort. Indeed in Greco’s case, it was the fourth time he’d sought a council position, proving what we already should know about the power of persistence.
Perhaps most pleasantly of all, they all looked around last night and agreed unanimously that Diana Asmar would make the best choice as the mayor for the coming year. We concur.