Hearld Sun Opinion
HERALD SUN OPINION
Lyons: Take no prisoners!
Democracy was stolen from the people of Geelong in April, 2016, when the city council was sacked by the Andrews Government.
Inone of the worst politically-driven decision made by a government, the council I proudly led as Mayor was thrown out of office on the feeble premise it was dysfunctional and amid claims of harassment and bullying.
Yet despite all the finger pointing and investigations, there has never been an official finding on the allegations or ofa council not doing its job.
The people of Geelong have an opportunity to reclaim what is rightfully theirs at the upcoming State election. They can flex their democratic muscle and elect someone other than a nodding political puppet, someone who can make Daniel Andrews and the Coalition accountable.
I am standing as an Independent in the seat of Geelong because of unfinished business. As Mayor, my mission was to see my home town become a vibrant, livable city offering jobs, lifestyle and a future. That passion is still very much alive.
Can I win? Of course. I do not believe for a second that voting for an Independent is one step removed from leaving your ballot paper blank. Australians are totally disillusioned with politicians for their mindless behavior, sniping and, dare I suggest, lying.
They have been treating us as idiots. Come November 24, Victorians have a chance to hit back by electing individuals not beholden to parties riven by factions, influenced by unions and powerbrokers and manipulated by people pushing personal interests.
Australians are swinging to Independents because they have the power to influence government. They have the capacity to force decision-makers to actually listen to what people want without the usual point-scoring and pathetic maneuverings of self-survival.
Geelong is Victoria’s second largest city, yet it has been treated as a country cousin by governments, more so the metro-centric incumbents.
What Victorians have seen in recent weeks though is pork barreling at its worst. Even ‘safe’ seats are the recipients of endless promises being thrown around like confetti. But why does it take an election for PR-driven announcements of financial support?
Regional Victoria has a right to a fair share of government funding. Geelong, as Victoria’s largest population centre outside Melbourne, deserves at least 20% of every billion spent.
There are numerous pressing needs, like a public transport system that is safe, reliable and fast. The Geelong-to-Melbourne line is a shambles. High-speed trains and more trains must be introduced, the service returned to its original direct link to Melbourne, thus avoiding the Tarneit-Wyndham Vale crush, travel times cut and reliability guaranteed.
A spur line for driverless buses to Avalon airport is crucial to meet its international potential. Trams should be brought back to the city and buses routed around, not through, the CBD.
The major parties have been playing politics with law and order. In Geelong, violent crime against people continues to rise. Families do not feel safe in their homes or in the streets.
As a start point, we need a greater police presence, including bike patrols; more Protective Services Officers to ease workloads on police; put desk-bound officers back on the streets;introduce tougher laws for criminals, as the community demands;make available a free app, successful in the UK, that issues alerts to people of crimes in their area; provide more CCTV in crime hot spots.
The city centre needs a complete transformation. It’s tired, lifeless and crying out for an injection of new ideas and new enterprises. Melbourne CBD, once a barren wasteland after dark, has come alive. Why can’t we do that in Geelong? All that’s needed is a little thinking outside the box and the guts to have a crack.
The next evolution of our foreshore is long overdue. Western Beach is a magnificent asset yet its potential remains untapped. A public private partnership should construct a new cruise ship pier. Politics and disagreement should be set aside to fast-track a convention centre and re-development of the yacht club precinct. And more green space is needed to make central Geelong more people-friendly. That means banning traffic from some key streets.
The list goes on ….. more jobs; additional funding for health services, particularly for the aged and people suffering mental illness; special accommodation for the homeless; infrastructure to match development; incentives for business start-ups.
Am I the person to deliver? While Mayor, the council was a key player in saving Avalon; there were record ABNs quarter by quarter, record investment in the CBD; tourism exploded; city streets were turning green; our Christmas initiative captured world attention; and let’s not forget Little Malop Street, a ghost land that became a shopping and eating magnet for locals. That stacks up as a proven track record.
Like or loathe me, 90% of people know I get things done. No sitting on hands pontificating and scared as hell about rocking the boat. I call it as I see it and, yes, sometimes step on toes.
I do not call myself a politician, never will. I just want the best for Geelong. And, if the electorate so chooses, I will do whatever necessary to get it.