City of Melbourne councillor loses seat in unprecedented decision

The Age, News, 24/08/2016, photo by Justin McManus. Team running in the Melbourne Mayoral Election. L-R Richard Foster, Nic Frances and Brooke Wandin.A Melbourne councillor has lost his position – and lord mayor Robert Doyle handed a powerful voting majority – in an unprecedented decision by the state’s administrative tribunal.
Nanjing Night Net

Michael Caiafa, a trader at the Queen Victoria Market, has been declared a “victim of circumstance” after a voting recount and subsequent decision by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

The recount was set in motion after it was discovered that the woman elected as Melbourne’s first Indigenous councillor, Brooke Wandin, was ineligible to stand because she did not live in the municipality.

Mr Caiafa and Ms Wandin will be replaced by former Brotherhood of St Laurence executive director Nic Frances Gilley and Susan Riley.

Mr Gilley stood on Ms Wandin’s “An Indigenous Voice on Council” ticket, but only received 14 direct votes.

Ms Riley, a former deputy mayor and publishing entrepreneur, stood on Cr Doyle’s ticket but only received 48 direct votes.

Mr Caiafa received 332 direct votes.

Ms Riley’s election delivers the Doyle team a 6-5 majority on the council.

The loss of Mr Caiafa from the council is a blow to a grassroots campaign against the council’s controversial development of the Queen Victoria Market.

Mr Caiafa ran on the ticket of former politician Phil Cleary, who is lobbying against the $250 million revamp. The group received more than 5600 votes.

Ms Wandin’s “An Indigenous Voice on Council” ticket received just 1628 votes.

In handing down his decision, Justice Greg Garde sympathised with Mr Caiafa, who has been serving as a councillor since last October’s local election.

“His conduct has been exemplary,” he wrote.

“He has done all that an elected councillor can do since he was declared elected. His position is affected by the actions of another candidate over whom he had no control, and for whom he has no responsibility.”

A lawyer for Mr Caiafa argued to the tribunal that is was unfair to retain votes for the “An Indigenous Voice on Council” because in order for the group to exist it needed two members.

The exclusion of Ms Wandin left it with one.

Mr Caiafa is seeking legal advice about whether he should appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. He argued the decision did not reflect the will of the voters.

However the tribunal ruled that it was important that the will of those who voted for the Indigenous Voice Group also be respected.

As a result, the group’s remaining member, Mr Frances Gilley, has been elected. He received just 14 direct votes.

Mr Gilley said his original intention was not to get elected himself, but to help Ms Wandin achieve enough votes to become the first Wurundjeri woman on council.

He said would seek to reform eligibility criteria for Aboriginal people.

“I can use this term to look at how all Indigenous people across the state could have the right to stand on their land for council,” he said.

A City of Melbourne spokesman said “we have been informed of Justice Garde’s decision and are currently considering its implications”.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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