Tony Briffa Votes Against Council Rate Increase

As an Independent Councillor focused on representing the community and supporting them during this very challenging pandemic, I am disappointed the 2020-21 council budget provides a rate increase that, while not applied immediately, will be applied at a later date.

I support the Capital Works Program 2020-21, but cannot support the rate rise.  I do not support an apparent “rate freeze” in 2020 only to potentially hit residents, community groups and businesses with a double rate increase in 2021.  At a time of a global pandemic and recession, of high unemployment and instability, of many businesses closing their doors and struggling to keep afloat, the council should be offering a genuine rate freeze – and perhaps a rate discount – in addition to other supports such as the Financial Hardship Policy.

The Hobsons Bay City Council is in a good financial position.  The proposed annual budget includes a surplus of $23.762 million for the year.  We can afford to provide a genuine rate freeze.

I also note that many of the fees and charges have also increased, and often by more than 2%.  For example, registration for a sterilised cat is going up by 4.76%, and registration for a sterilised dog is going up by 2.65%.  Many of the charges to local business for street furniture is going up by around 3%.  Parking ticket machines in the restaurant precinct in Williamstown are on hold for the rest of 2020, but they are going up by 5.41% when they are turned back on in 2021.

Here are some of the details extracted from the budget:


This means the actual rate increase (Capital Improved Value) for residential properties is actually increasing by 2.95% but not applied this year.  It can, however, be applied in 2021 meaning ratepayers can be subjected to a double rate increase in 2021.  In my opinion, a rate freeze means the Capital Improved Value should not be increased so it cannot be applied in future years.  The council should completely forego any rate increase for 2020-21.

Note that the follow table from the budget shows an actual rate increase in 2020-21 is $2,887,000 and the propose rebate will cost $2,226,000.  This means the council still gains $661,000 in addition to the increase in fees and charges.



The following table from the budget clearly shows the Council administration is planning a rate increase every year of 2%, and that the rebate being applied for 2020-21 is a one off, meaning that the 2% from 2020-21 will still count in future budgets.  The council budget for 2021-22 will therefore effectively have a double rate increase.


The following table from the budget shows the council is expecting significant surpluses over the next 4 years, largely from rates increasing from $112 million in 2020/21 to $124 million in 2023/24 (a 10.7% increase over 4 years!).


I urge every ratepayer (resident or business owner) experiencing financial hardship to access the new council Financial Hardship Policy.  It now includes provisions for rate deferrals and waivers, and I hope it will be easy to access.  Please contact the council or me directly if you want more information about that.

I also respectfully acknowledge Cr Michael Grech who also voted against the rate rise, and Cr Angela Altair who abstained from the vote.

Council Rate Hike on Local Businesses Despite Pandemic

Despite the financial difficulties many businesses are experiencing due to the pandemic, the Hobsons Bay City Council is determined to push ahead with its planned rate increase.  The proposed average rate increase across Hobsons Bay is 2%, but it is 3.89% for commercial properties (e.g. shops, cafes and other small businesses) and 8.78% for Industrial properties.  Rates for petrochemical properties is proposed to increase by 1.14%.

Local shops, cafes and other small businesses and local industry are really hurting, as are their staff.  Increasing rates to these local businesses at this time is irresponsible and not in the spirit of council supporting local business and jobs.  The pandemic has sent many to the wall, and those that survived the first lockdown and first three months until reopening are again affected by the second lockdown.  Many will be lucky to survive.

The disgraced former Minister for Local Government, Adem Somyurek announced the rate cap for Victorian councils in December 2019 – well before the pandemic.  Life and the Australian economic climate is very different now, and the country is in recession with negative growth.  Rates should not be increasing at this time.

The council budget provides an operational surplus of $25.3 million for the year for 2020-21.  This is a surplus increase of $1.107 million compared to 2019-20.

Whilst the average general rate increase is 2 per cent as mentioned above, total rate income is expected to increase by 2.69 per cent, due to waste service charges and supplementary growth, raising total rates and charges for 2020-21 to $114.452 million.

COVID-19 Community Support Package

The council administration will argue that the COVID-19 Community Support Package will ensure local businesses are supported during this time, and that 150% of the increase in rates will go back to the community.  Let’s have a look at what this package includes:

(a) program to support local connections ($100,000);
(b) incentives to use Council venues including the Williamstown Town Hall and Altona Theatre ($132,000);
(c) waiver of summer sports ground rentals ($72,000);
(d) strategic planning support for sports clubs to resume training and competition ($60,000);
(e) sports pavilion cleaning program ($20,000);
(f) ‘loan to own’ iPads program at the libraries ($60,000);
(g) an additional $500,000 to the existing Annual Community Grants Programs (Community groups, organisations and clubs, not businesses);
(h) rebates for the 2020-21 food registration ($595,000), public health fees ($63,000), and footpath trading permit fees ($150,000);
(i) extending the waiver of paid parking in Nelson Place until 31 December 2020 (customers of businesses located at Williamstown Beach will also be provided dedicated permits for free parking during this period) ($520,000);
(j) rent relief in Council owned property ($210,000);
(j) town planning rebates ($177,000); and
(k) rolling out a business precinct support campaign ($250,000).

These arguably provide little support to traders.  Waiver of paid parking fees in Williamstown, for example, reduces the income to council, but that was impacted by the pandemic anyway.  Further, none of that money is going to local businesses.  Commercial property owners are being required to reduct rent to tenants, so even that so called “rent relief” of $210,000 is not anything not being expected of other owners of commercial buildings and is only going to assist council’s tenants.  Doing things like not charging for footpath trading permit fees and public health fees is the least the council can do to support local business.

Out of the whole $3 million support package, only a small portion is actually going to support local businesses.

Hobsons Bay Financial Hardship Policy 2020.

The council is also rightly improving its Financial Hardship Policy to enable residential ratepayers, businesses, sporting clubs and community groups to get assistance from their rates, waste charges, fees, user charges and interest in the form of a deferral, discount, waiver or refund.  Only the council CEO can authorise a waiver or refund of money paid to/ or payable to Council including rates, interest, rent, fees and charges.  Waivers or refunds are limited to a cumulative total value of $10,000 or of 12 months rates value, whichever is the lesser amount, for each applicant, and no more than waiver or refund application can be approved for any individual, club, association or business.

The assessment process is supposed to be simple, but Council will necessarily consider all matters in its deliberations, and may seek applicable supporting information to be provided including: company records, bank statements, financial records or assessments, employment documentation, Centrelink and/or taxation information and a Financial Counselling report.

The policy states that consideration of a waiver can only occur if all financial information has been disclosed to Council with supporting documentation as requested. Council will also require the concurrence and validation of the circumstances by a qualified financial counsellor.

As you can see, this policy necessarily requires a significant degree of oversight by the council, and a commensurate degree of work for the applicant to complete the application, provide the necessary documentation and submit themselves to a financial counselling report.

It seems to me that more local businesses will be seeking deferrals, discounts, waivers or refunds if their rates are increased by 4% at this very difficult time.  In my view it would be preferable for the council NOT to increase rates and charges on local businesses, and to provide this support anyway.

As I wrote in April, if we’re all in this together, why is the council’s budget immune?  Why are they not willing to take some of the pain the community is feeling?  The council still expects a significant surplus despite the pandemic, and is forecasting annual growth.  This is from the council budget:

Screenshot 2020-07-09 16.33.54

Screenshot 2020-07-09 16.44.47

What Can You Do to Help?

It is important local businesses, their staff and people who support them lodge submissions to the council explaining the impact of the pandemic and the proposed increased in rates, and the little relief provided by the support package to businesses.  Mention the difficulty and challenges in applying for relief and how it’s appreciated but that as proud business owners you  want to avoid having to apply for rate deferrals, reductions, waivers or refunds from the council.  A rate discount – and definitely not increasing rates – is what you, your business and your staff need.

To lodge a submission:
(a) Visit  All the budget documentation is provided on this page.
(b) Prepare your budget submission explaining your situation and the importance of the council not increasing rates to businesses.
(c) Lodge your submission by 5pm, Friday 24 July 2020.

Please consider speaking in support of your submission to the council.  If you are willing to do this – and I really encourage you to do this – then please mention it in your submission.

Submissions should be sent to:

Andrew McLeod
Director of Corporate Services
Hobsons Bay City Council

You can also make your submission via the above page, and I also welcome you to send me a copy of your submission –

Council Meeting 14 April 2020 – Rubbish and Rates!

I am unable to attend council meetings in person at the moment due to the COVID-19 pandemic and my personal health risks (for which I have provided a medical certificate to the council).  The current law in Victoria does not allow councillors to participate in formal council meetings online, so for openness, transparency and accountability, I am explaining my position on several of the council agenda items here.  This is also being sent to my councillor colleagues who I have already explained my position to at Councillor Briefings in relation to the budget and waste collection.  I hope they will consider my perspective in their deliberations in the chamber tonight – there is still time for them to stop this budget and change it.

7.1 Joint Letter – Historic Aleppo Pine Tree in Apex Park, Altona

I am grateful for the joint Letter requesting the Council redesign the proposed turning circle at the south-eastern end of Apex Park, Altona to preserve the historic Aleppo pine tree.  I look forward to seeing the alternate designs from the council administration and encourage them  to consult with the lead petitioner and the wider community about possible alternate designs.

7.2 Petition – Reinstate Weekly General Rubbish Waste Collection

I am very impressed with a community group that is able to get a petition containing 1120 signatures, which is even more extraordinary given the pandemic and social distancing.  It is obvious there is a lot of community concern about the significant reduction of general waste being collected by council, as well as a widespread support for the steps the council has made to reduce waste and increase the amount of waste being recycled.  A 120 litre general waste collection every two weeks might be enough for some households, and I congratulate those that are able to limit waste so much, but this is certainly not the case in many of our local households.  In hindsight, and given this feedback, the council should increase the capacity of the general waste collection, and not just by allowing residents to bring their own rubbish to the council depot once a week.

Having a larger bin, or having a weekly collection does not mean people will produce more rubbish, nor will it mean people will stop recycling or trying their best to reduce waste.  It will mean households can continue to reduce their waste, but that they do not have to experience unnecessary stress if they have a little more waste than usual in a week – or try to dispose of the excess rubbish elsewhere.  At the moment, if a household has extra rubbish they have to save it for the next rubbish collection in 2 weeks.  Some have disappointedly resorted to dumping rubbish or putting rubbish in other people’s bins.  Sometimes in the wrong bin because they are desperate.  If they do save their excess rubbish for the next collection cycle they start the next rubbish fortnight with even less space in their bin.  It becomes a vicious cycle and puts unnecessary stress on families.  Families are already experiencing enough stress with the pandemic.

I understand there is a financial cost if the council increases the amount of general waste being collected, but we as a council have to be reasonable and provide the rubbish/waste services residents need.  Given the feedback from many residents – including these 1120 petitioners and many I have spoken to – I do not believe the standard general waste collection service is enough.  I look forward to the report from officers following their discussions with the lead petitioner and hope it will result in an improved general waste service.

8.2.1 Proposed Annual Budget and Rating Strategy 2020-21

I strongly oppose the proposed annual council budget being presented at tonight’s council meeting during this pandemic and at a time where unemployment is around 10% and the country is about to experience the greatest recession in generations.  In this climate it is inappropriate to propose a 2% rate increase and $26.5 million surplus.  I call on the council to note the new budget timeline announced by the Premier, and to:

(a) review the budget in light of the overwhelming impacts of the pandemic to our community, including businesses, residents and landlords; and

(b) commit to introducing a scheme that supports ratepayers (including residential and commercial ratepayers and landlords), by providing a 50% discount (not deferral) to ratepayers experiencing hardship.

Many members of our community are experiencing significant hardship as a result of the pandemic.  Many businesses have stopped trading or are struggling to stay afloat.  Many people cannot pay bills including rent, utilities and rates.  Many families have had their incomes cut because people have lost jobs or their tenants cannot pay rent.  Residents and businesses are in extreme stress and the situation isn’t likely to improve in the short term.  To announce a proposed budget with a $26.5 million surplus and a 2% increase at this time is completely inappropriate.

The report on tonight’s agenda acknowledges the impact of the pandemic, but with respect, I do not accept that there has not been sufficient time to review the proposed budget.  The Federal Government has had sufficient time to close our borders (initially limiting travel from mainland China on 1 February and to all non-citizens and non-residents from 20 March) and to introduce many measures including the $130 billion JobKeeper program.  The State Government declared a State of Emergency on 16 March and announced a $1.7 billion economic survival and jobs package  on 21 March.  They did all of this while also preparing our health care system to be ready to treat infected Australians, introducing social distancing, repatriating Australians from overseas, etc.  The council should have already revised the proposed budget.  At the very least they should not have put this disturbing and irresponsible budget out to the public for consideration.

As a council we must join the federal and state governments in doing what we can to support our local community including local businesses, ratepayers and residents.  Increasing rates and seeking a $26.5 million surplus at this time is obscene and un-Australian.

If we’re all in this together, why is the council budget immune?

Click on the links below to access the documents for tonight’s council meeting:



Cr Tony Briffa JP
Councillor, City of Hobsons Bay
(14 April 2020)

Save Altona’s Kindergartens!

I support the retention and upgrade of the existing kindergartens in Altona and Seaholme.  They are wonderful kindergartens that serve our community well and are much loved by many of us.  Sadly, council has previously resolved to build an “Early Years Hub” in Altona and to make it viable they closed the Altona West Kindergarten last year (while I was not part of the council).  Now council officers have recommended that we close a further two kindergartens in Altona – the Altona Kindergarten on Blyth St and the Somers Parade Kindergarten.  Here was the recommendation from the council officers:

Kindergarten Officer Recommendation


The community’s response was wonderful, and within days the kindergartens had met with me and obtained 848 signatures on a petition and a joint letter to the council.  It was also great to see so many parents and concerned residents attend the council meeting to show their opposition to the council officer recommendation to close the kindergartens.

Kindergarten at HBCC


Families at the Council Meeting where the recommendation to close two local kindergartens was debated.

I was pleased to put up an alternate motion at the meeting which was as follows:

Kindergarten Resolution

As you can see, my motion to consider this matter on 12 September following a further report was accepted, but not my attempt to not engage a builder for the Hub.  The CEO explained we can seek a builder via tender but we still have the option not to award the tender to anyone.

The future of the kindergartens is sadly still not secure.  I encourage families and the local community to support our local kindergartens and to get in touch with them about ways you can support the campaign to save them.


Altona kindergarten closures on hold

Two Altona kindergartens have won a reprieve after Hobsons Bay council delayed a decision on their closure.

Close to 100 protesters, some holding signs saying “Save Altona’s kinders”, attended last week’s council meeting at which the issue was being heard for the third time.

A council officer’s report recommended that Altona Kindergarten and Somers Parade Kindergarten be closed due to a new hub being built at Altona P-9 College.

Cr Tony Briffa tabled a petition with 848 signatures and a joint letter signed by committee of management heads of both kindergartens, pleading for them to remain open.

The petition stated in part: “These kinders have been part of the community for more than 50 years. They exceed national quality standards, are financially viable and are loved by the community and our children.”

Cr Michael Grech told last week’s meeting it was important to keep community kindergartens.

“I went to Russell Court kinder in Altona Meadows and, funnily enough, so did my wife,” he said.

“This year we were lucky enough to have our three-year-old son follow in our footsteps. At the moment, we can only get him in one day a week due to demand. I feel by destroying our centres, we are destroying our communities.”

The state government has contributed $1.6 million for a new early-years hub to be built on the Altona P-9 College site, with the council to contribute about $5.6 million. The hub would have 198 places.

Last week’s meeting heard that it would cost $3.8 million to upgrade the existing kindergartens.

The council voted to consider a further report on early years services in Altona and Seaholme and the matters raised in the petition and joint letter at its September 12 meeting.


Budget passed but hub could spell end for kinders

Budget passed but hub could spell end for kinders JULY 4, 2017 2:00 PM BY GOYA DMYTRYSHCHAK

Hobsons Bay council has adopted its annual budget, despite concern that allocating $4.59million to build an Altona early years hub will seal the fate of local kindergartens.

The budget includes more than $34million on capital works, $118million on operational expenditure and an average rate increase of 2 per cent.

It includes $7.4million for open space, $6.7million for roads, $3.8million for footpaths and bike paths, $2.7million for plant and equipment and $11.4million for buildings, with the hub being the most expensive project.

Councillors Tony Briffa and Michael Grech said while they supported the overall budget, the funding allocation for a new hub on the Altona P-9 College site meant supporting the closure of Altona and Seaholme kindergartens.

Cr Briffa told last week’s council meeting that the hub and the future of the kindergartens were intertwined.

“They are inextricably linked and we are making an allocation of $4.59million for a hub that is going to make local kindergartens unviable, so that is definitely my consideration,” Cr Briffa said.

Cr Grech asked if the previous council, which did not include himself or Cr Briffa, had known local kinders would be closed when it voted in favour of a new hub.

“When council resolved on the 26th of April, 2016, to construct a hub, were council fully informed that in order to make a hub viable, kindergartens would have to be closed?”

Community wellbeing director Peter Hunt replied that the councillors had been briefed a number of times.

“I think we had three fortnights in a row when we had briefings to the council so the councillors were well aware of the challenges posed by a small catchment and an oversupply of places.”

Cr Briffa moved a budget amendment to allocate but not use the money for the hub until the future of the kindergartens was decided, but this only gained support from Cr Grech.

The council meeting heard that a report on kinders in the precinct would come to the council in September and a contract to build the hub was expected to be awarded in October.

Hobsons Bay council has adopted its annual budget, despite concern that allocating $4.59million to build an Altona early years hub will seal the fate of local kindergartens.

The budget includes more than $34million on capital works, $118million on operational expenditure and an average rate increase of 2 per cent. It includes $7.4million for open space, $6.7million for roads, $3.8million for footpaths and bike paths, $2.7million for plant and equipment and $11.4million for buildings, with the hub being the most expensive project.

Councillors Tony Briffa and Michael Grech said while they supported the overall budget, the funding allocation for a new hub on the Altona P-9 College site meant supporting the closure of Altona and Seaholme kindergartens.

Cr Briffa told last week’s council meeting that the hub and the future of the kindergartens were intertwined. “They are inextricably linked and we are making an allocation of $4.59million for a hub that is going to make local kindergartens unviable, so that is definitely my consideration,” Cr Briffa said.

Cr Grech asked if the previous council, which did not include himself or Cr Briffa, had known local kinders would be closed when it voted in favour of a new hub. “When council resolved on the 26th of April, 2016, to construct a hub, were council fully informed that in order to make a hub viable, kindergartens would have to be closed?” Community wellbeing director Peter Hunt replied that the councillors had been briefed a number of times. “I think we had three fortnights in a row when we had briefings to the council so the councillors were well aware of the challenges posed by a small catchment and an oversupply of places.”

Cr Briffa moved a budget amendment to allocate but not use the money for the hub until the future of the kindergartens was decided, but this only gained support from Cr Grech.

The council meeting heard that a report on kinders in the precinct would come to the council in September and a contract to build the hub was expected to be awarded in October.



Westgate Tunnel

I support infrastructure including new roads, public transport (e.g. a new train station in Altona North), schools (a P-12 for Altona!), etc., and I really wanted to support the so-called Westgate Tunnel (formerly called the Western Distributor) but now that we know the real impacts of what is being proposed I have serious concerns about the project.  It is obvious the Westgate Tunnel (which is not an alternative to the Westgate Bridge) is designed to appease the concerns of Maribyrnong residents without any regard for residents in Altona North, Brooklyn and Spotswood, and all the many people that visit, work, go to school and drive through those areas.

The concerns are all laid out in the EES but basically there are huge air quality and traffic impacts.  HUGE.  The graphic below is an good indication of some of the traffic issues (keep in mind we also need to factor in the additional 7000 residents proposed for the former Dons site on Blackshaws Road):



It is incredibly to me that the issues such as amenity, air quality etc that resulted in residents in Maribyrnong being successful in getting this tunnel are being ignored in Hobsons Bay.  We are not getting any truck bans, curfews, etc., as was the case in Maribyrnong.  Also, it’s fair to say the residents in Altona North, Brooklyn and Spotswood could not have envisaged on living near such horrendous impacts when they bought their properties – it’s just not fair.

I encourage residents to get involved and lodge submissions to the state government about the adverse impacts of this project.

There are several wonderful community groups working on this issue too.  If you want to get in touch with them please contact me –


A flyer distributed by the Brooklyn residents’ group

The following are some media articles about this project.


Hobsons Bay council backs West Gate Tunnel protest

June 22, 2017 11:07 am
by Goya Dmytryshchak


Hobsons Bay council last week voted to help residents campaign against the negative impacts of the West Gate Tunnel project, with one councillor calling it the “Maribyrnong bypass”.

While truck curfews will be implemented in Maribyrnong, Millers Road in Hobsons Bay will see up to 10,300 more trucks a day by 2031 as a result of the project.

Hobsons Bay residents have formed a new lobby group called Don’t Destroy Millers Road.

The council voted to “conduct a public campaign and a public meeting to encourage, support and assist Hobsons Bay community members and groups to make their own submissions” on the project.

“It is not an alternative to the West Gate,” Cr Tony Briffa said.

“This project, as far as I’m concerned, is the Maribyrnong bypass and that’s certainly what I refer to it as.

“The impact on Millers Road, particularly nearer to Brooklyn, will be quite significant. Then there is also the health impacts.”

The council is seeking 24-hour truck bans in Blackshaws Road, Hudsons Road, Mason Street, North Road, Kororoit Creek Road east of Millers Road, and High Street.

It wants a night and weekend curfew in Millers Road, between Kororoit Creek Road and Geelong Road, with trucks travelling to local businesses exempted. Cr Jonathon Marsden said the council did not support the West Gate Tunnel toll road.

“It is not a second river crossing, it is a political fix … We have recommended … the state government purchase the vacant industrial land located between Simcock Avenue and the West Gate Freeway for the purpose of conversion to public open space.”

A petition has started on calling for trucks to be moved to Grieve Parade instead of Millers Road as part of the West Gate Tunnel project.



Impacts of West Gate Tunnel project on commuters revealed

A new ring of tolls and road bans will hit thousands of trucks unless they use the new $5.5 billion tunnel connecting the West Gate Freeway to CityLink.

A 10,000 page environmental effect statement has been released showing that all trucks using the West Gate Freeway would face a new toll regardless of whether they use the new tunnel or continue over, or come via, the West Gate Bridge.



And motorists heading to the CBD via the new tunnel in the morning rush hour face the state’s first peak period tolls to try to discourage them from entering certain city streets.

At the same time, truck curfews will be slapped on streets around the Port of Melbourne, sparking criticism transport operators will have to inflate cost of goods to offset new costs.

Mr Andrews said today truck curfews could be written into legislation to ensure heavy vehicles dd not rat run through suburbs in Melbourne’s west to flout tolls.

However, it is unlikely that more resources would be invested by the Andrews Government to carry out enforcement.

Mr Andrews defended the project despite the EES revealing the promised time saving of 20 minutes only applied in a few trips on the new road.

“We can have a debate about a range of time savings or we can just pause for a moment and think about where will we be in 10 years if we don’t build this,” he said

“This represents great value.”

Mr Andrews confirmed negotiations over the controversial toll extension are ongoing.

Previously the government have said tolls could be extended 10 to 12 years.

However, Mr Andrews declined to commit to the figure today.

The toll rates are still subject to negotiation between Transurban — which is funding most of the project in return for tolling revenue — and the Andrews Government, but the EES points to two new toll points on the West Gate Freeway at either side of Millers Road and one more at Hyde Rd.

Another toll point is at the city access ramps to Footscray Road, Dynon Road and Wurundjeri Way — which would hit motorists with an extra charge if they get off there during the morning peak.

Modelling on tolling has been done as much as 20 per cent above the 2015 CityLink rate for trucks of about $13.00.

Cars using the tunnel will likely be hit with the same toll as the Bolte Bridge — now $3.

Locals fear without proper monitoring of the truck bans on inner-west roads the streets will still be used as rat-runs, while transport companies are furious it will force them to use the paid highway.

Victorian Transport Association chief executive Peter Anderson said plans to curfew trucks and put them on a toll road will harm the Victorian economy.

“Transport operators will inevitably pass on the cost of higher tolls throughout the supply chain, so ultimately it is consumers that will foot the bill through higher prices for goods and services,’’Mr Anderson said.

But the government says truck travel to the Port of Melbourne from Princes Freeway will be at least 12 minutes faster in peak times — leading to cost and time savings for transport companies.

Greens western suburbs MP Colleen Hartland said there was deep community concern the western suburbs “mega toll road” would not stop trucks from travelling on inner west roads.

The government says 9000 trucks a day will be removed from local roads and 8000 from the West Gate Bridge with the tunnel and the bans.

Roads Minister Luke Donnellan promised cars would not be tolled on the upgraded West Gate Freeway or there would be any charges on the existing road network.

“We’re building a dedicated route to the Port of Melbourne to relieve the pressure on the West Gate Bridge and the EES shows that the tunnel will do just that,” Mr Donnellan said.

The EES says there would be “innovative tolling solutions” for night time discounts, trip caps for use of the tunnel and the CityLink and discounts for multiple trips to and from the port.

More freight would be encouraged to be moved at night with discounts for truckers using the toll routes after sundown.

The report says final toll price and structure, are still subject to negotiations through the Department of Treasury and Finance’s Market Led Proposal process.

Shadow treasurer Michael O’Brien said the document showed the project was “an absolute dud”.

He said there would be more trucks using the West Gate now than when the project was built.

“It shows that for spending billions of dollars, and years and years of extra tolls, Victorians will not really get any traffic relief at all,” Mr O’Brien said.

“It’s only going to take about 3 per cent of trucks off the West Gate, but 100 per cent of CityLink users have to pay extra tolls for years and years. This just doesn’t stack up.

“We’ve said we don’t see arguments for supporting people using CityLink paying extra tolls for years and years, for a project Labor never took to the election.”


Overdevelopment in Altona North

At the council meeting on 14 February 2017 I voted against the significant overdevelopment of the former Dons site on Blackshaws Road, Altona North.  It is a large parcel of land, but 3000 dwellings consisting of multi-storey buildings as high as 6 storeys in an area with very little connectivity to public transport means its impact will be enormous on the local area, particularly on our traffic.  As a representative of the local community on the council, I could not in good faith support this development under these conditions.

There will be more community consultation about the development of the site in the coming months , so I will keep residents updated with opportunities to provide input.

For the record, all the other councillors except Michael Grech supported the motion which is why the vote was passed by the council.

The minutes of the Council meeting that passed this motion is available on the council website.

I will keep residents informed of any updates, so please email me at if you wish to be put on my newsletter distribution list.

PLEASE ALSO SHARE this update with your facebook friends, particularly if they live in Altona North, Altona, Brooklyn, Spotswood and Newport.

Also refer to the article in the Star Weekly by Goya Dmytryshchak (21 February 2017).


Making Council Accessible

As a Councillor, Deputy Mayor and Mayor, my main focus was to give the community a voice and to provide leadership to the council and community.  I often spoke about integrity, values, openness and transparency, but rather than just speak about them, I made sure I walked the walk.

As a Councillor it is important that all my actions and decisions are open and transparent.  I am pleased to have therefore introduced the following policies to the Hobsons Bay City Council:

(a) Council meetings are recorded and podcast on the council website within 24 hours;

(b) Councillor expenses are regularly made publicly available on the council website; and

(c) Matters are only considered in camera when absolutely necessary, and even then they are to be reviewed and made public once the reason for the confidentiality no longer applies.

I was very disappointed with a number of decisions made by the council behind closed doors and without any community consultation.  Incredibly most of the other councillors – including those who talk about “values” and “integrity” – were happy to support that process.  I will always speak out in support of what is right and what is in the best interests of our community. 

As a Councillor I also ensured I regularly consulted with the community and informed the community what I was doing via twitter, facebook, this website and my regular email newsletter “Community Update”.  I was also regularly available to meet with local community groups, individuals and business owners/operators.

Vote for me as per my how to vote cardif you want this level of representation, openness, transparency, integrity and communication.


Working Hard for our Community

As a Councillor I was very active in the local community to ensure I was able to represent and advocate for the community as well-informed as possible.  The following is a list of some of my activities in a 11 month period on council (not including Council meetings, briefings, meetings with Council’s CEO and Directors, etc):

Newport Senior Citizens Group;
Altona Gate Shopping Centre Management;
Brooklyn Resident Action Group;
Hobsons Bay Men’s Shed;
Noordenne Residents Group;
Italian Social Club, Altona North;
Delegation of traders from Hudsons Road, Spotswood;
Joseph’s Corner;
Individual residents on a range of issues such as upgrades to local reserves;
Mayor of Cairns and visited Cairns Regional Council  (Self paid);
Victoria Police, Youth Services and Hobsons Bay Blue Light Disco;
Hobsons Bay Residents Association;
Bendigo Bank;
Altona City Theatre;
Jill Hennessy MP;
Seaholme Primary School;
Youth Services regarding possible Blue Light Disco in Altona;
Hobsons Bay Maltese Association;
Spotswood Traders;
Westbourne Grammar’s Annual Concert;
Altona Historical Homestead open day;
Powercor Buloke Business Excellence Awards Gala Presentation;
GLBTIQ Advisory Committee Meeting;
Mobile Customer Service Program, Pier Street Altona;
Williamstown High School Centenary Theatre Fund;
Dinner with the Altona Fishing and Angling Club;
Launch of the “Say ‘No’ to Homophobia” campaign at Parliament House;
Unveiled the new mosaic artwork at Somers Parade Kindergarten;
Spoke at Hobsons Bay Youth Forum 2012;
Held Environment Day as part of Mayoral Program;
Welcome Ceremony for 2012 Anjo Students at Bayside P-12;
Department of Education and Early Childhood Development DVD Launch;
Joseph’s Corner Thank You Luncheon;
All Aboard Club’s 75th Celebration;
Arabic Women’s Pre Ramadan Conference;
Association of Bayside of Municipalities;
Customer Service Mobile Program in Williamstown;
Complete Family Care Re-Opening;
Youth Leadership Graduation Ceremony;
Mobile Customer Service Program, Altona Gate;
National Tree Day (Altona North and Altona Meadows);
Celebrations Altona;
Spoke at NAIDOC Week Raising of the Flag Ceremony;
Spoke at the Victorian Multi Cultural Conference;
Spoke at the Anjo, Japan Student Welcome Reception;
Spoke at the Laverton Time Capsule Event;
Spoke at the Hobsons Bay Early Years Conference;
Visited Yarrabah Council, Cairns;
Chaired Citizenship Ceremonies;
Altona City Soccer Club;
Williamstown Chamber of Commerce;
Hobsons Bay Maltese Association;
Supt Peter Bull from the North Western Metro Region;
Youth Citizen of the Year;
Men’s Shed Open Day;
TS Voyager Annual Unit Assessment (Williamstown);
ALGA Conference;
Crashendo group rehearsal at Laverton P-12 College;
Hobsons Bay interagency networking meeting;
Lions Club of Altona Changeover dinner;
Spoke at the Brooklyn Federation Trail Celebration;
Spoke at Refugee Week Celebrations;
Spoke at the Crashendo Concert at Laverton P-12 College;
Presented awards at the Hobsons Bay Meals on Wheels Celebration;
Chaired Junior School Council;
Visited Cooraminta Kindergarten, Laverton;
Newport Islamic Group;
Brooklyn Residents Action Group;
Lois Joel Arts Centre;
Point Cook Action Group;
Maltese Bocci Club;
Melbourne Queer Film Festival;
Williamstown Visitor Information Centre;
South Kingsville Community Centre – Cooking with all Abilities;
St Martin de Porres Primary School in Laverton;
Parents of Children with a Disability;
Maltese Association of Hobsons Bay Mother’s Day Lunch;
Finnish Friendly Visiting Service 15 Year Anniversary Celebration;
Tour of the Sea Shepherd in Williamstown;
Mobile Customer Service Program in Spotswood;
Official Opening of the Williamstown Cricket Ground;
Yooralla UCAN Event as part of Governor General’s visit;
Brooklyn Residents Reference Group;
Altona Loop Action Group Meeting;
Street SmART Art Auction in Laverton;
Spoke at the Pixel 8 Awards;
Spoke at the Art in Public Places Wrap Up/Awards Night;
Spoke at the Altona North Children’s Centre 20th Birthday Celebration;
Spoke at the International Day Against Homophobia (City of Port Phillip);
Raised HBCC’s Rainbow Flag for IDAHO;
Chaired Junior School Council;
LGMA National Congress;
Altona Hockey Club;
Mobil CEO;
Toyota CEO;
Evolve re: Port Phillip Woollen Mills;
Williamstown Chamber of Commerce;
Inside Edge regarding Altona Facilities Feasibility;
Otway Partners regarding Precinct 15;
Jill Hennessy, MLA for Altona;
Members of the Hobsons Bay Community Fund;
Residents to discuss 99 Queen Street;
Mobile Customer Service Program – Aviation Road, Laverton;
Altona Lions Market;
Hobsons Bay Community Fund Meeting;
Fell Reserve, Seaholme Consultation meeting;
Meeting regarding Spotswood Pub;
Official Re-Opening of The Rex Theatre, Charlton;
Woods Street Art Space;
Community Grants Committee meeting;
MAV Councillor Development Weekend;
Presented and spoke at the Hobsons Bay Young Citizen of the Year Awards;
Participated in the Rainbow Family Forum Session;
Participated in the ‘Meet Your GLBTIQ Neighbours’ session in Wyndham;
Visited Altona Meadows Primary School;
Visited the Williamstown Cricket Ground and Williamstown Library;
Visited the Williamstown Senior Citizens Club;
Judged Art in Public Places;
Joy FM Radio Spot;
Hobsons Bay Libraries;
Ron Walker (Evolve) re: Port Phillip Woollen Mills;
Friends of Williamstown & Newport Libraries Summer Writing Awards Night;
Signcraft CEO;
The Project (Ch 10);
Burbank Homes CEO;
Newport Traders Association;
Hobsons Bay Community Bank Defibrillator for Life Project Launch;
Sisters of Saint Joseph;
Buloke Shire Visit;
Andrew Elsbury MLC;
Hobsons Bay Altona Garden Club;
Newport Mosque with Victoria Police;
Mayor of Wyndham;
Westgate Entertainment Centre;
Australian Paralympics Olympic Committee Member;
Joy FM Radio Interview;
Relay for Life in Altona;
Australian Coastal Councils Conference;
Men’s Shed Meeting;
Disability Committee Forum as part of Mayoral Program;
Western Suburbs Disability Advisory Forum;
Official opening of Seabrook Community Centre & Kindergarten;
Francis Sullivan Kindergarten Fundraising Event;
Williamstown Rotary Club Meeting;
VECCI’s Business Leaders information session;
Japanese Consulate General’s memorial ceremony for the anniversary of Japanese Earthquake victims;
Altona Beach Festival;
Chaired Junior School Council;
Inspected the Williamstown Town Hall works;
Presented Food Safety Awards;
Launched Art in Public Places;
Judged the Mayor’s Choice Award (part of Altona Beach Festival) at Louis Joel Arts Centre;
Media Launch at Logan’s Reserve for WiFi as part of Mayoral Program;
Lead West;
Moonee Valley Traffic School;
Migrant Resource Centre;
“Every Australian Counts”;
Able Engineering;
Arabic Women’s Group;
Salvation Army;
Altona Little Athletics;
SKM Recycling;
PAZ Group;
St John’s Ambulance;
Minister for Planning, Matthew Guy MP;
BAE Systems;
Emergency relief and food security project at St Stephens, Williamstown;
Commemorative Service in honour of the Darwin Bombing Victims;
Altona Cricket Club’s 50th Anniversary Dinner;
Launch of the National Year of Reading;
Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week event by the Lions Club of Altona and the Police Community Consultative Committee;
Official reopening of the Williamstown Uniting Church;
Lions Club of Altona 1000th Meeting;
Wyndham City Council Mayor;
Disability Advisory Committee;
Williamstown Chamber of Commerce and the manager of Arts, Events and Tourism;
Residents from the Noordenne Estate, Seaholme and representatives from the Altona City Soccer Club;
Save Williamstown Group and senior Planning Department personnel;
Herald Sun;
Movies by the Bay;
Dog’s Breakfast;
Summer Sounds concert;
Mobile Customer Service Program;
Australia Day Breakfast and Citizenship Ceremony;
Australia Day celebration;
Go West events:
Spoil Yourself Wellbeing Workshop;
Sailing Day (Altona Yacht Club);
Croquet; and
Stories from the city, stories from the sea.

If you want a hard working Councillor, vote for Tony Briffa in accordance with my How to Vote card.

Council run childcare in Hobsons Bay (12 February 2014)

Last November the council made an unfortunate decision while I was overseas.  It decided in a meeting closed to the public and without any community consultation to outsource the management of the two council-run childcare centres in Hobsons Bay (Altona Meadows and Altona North).  Council management also failed to consult with staff.  Incredibly, this motion was supported by all councillors present.

I have opposed this decision and the process from the outset and am very pleased I successfully moved a resolution in the council last night to abandon that process and start again, complete with consultation with staff, affected families and other stakeholders.

I am very grateful to the families, staff and union organisers that attended the council meeting last night, and to Cr Luba Grigorovitch who has supported my moves to reverse the council decision since early December.

Here is some of what I had to say in the council chambers last night:

“This motion is put forward to the council in the interests of supporting open dialogue with the community we represent and being accountable to them. It is also intended to provide proper, open, consultative dialogue with our invaluable staff. It is only fair that we adhere to the principles of natural justice and democracy and give people affected by a potential decision about childcare the opportunity to be heard in relation to the importance of childcare and why services are better under a council-run system.

I think it’s important the council acknowledge and understand why workers – by far predominantly women – are undervalued and why there is a 20% disparity between the Council award and what childcare workers are paid by private companies. Rather than supporting a system that devalues women, I would like to think our council would support them and advocate for equality. It’s timely that we are considering an Advocacy Policy in the council tonight because we all realize that advocacy is an important role for the council.

As a council we must abide by the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act. This, to me, includes the right of equal remuneration for work of equal value. A right that is embodied in various international instruments, and which many Australian women do not enjoy – even in 2014. On average women earn less than men for work of equal or comparable value. This inequity has adverse social and economic consequences.

This motion is about families, mothers, single parents, staff at the childcare centres (most are women), and the values and principles of the council. As a council we uphold values of equality and respect. Our values are not about money (although we are, of course, a financially sustainable and responsible council).

On that basis, and in the interest of openness, transparency, accountability and democracy, I am happy to move this motion and ask all councillors for their support.”

Lots of local events in Melbourne’s West this summer!

Lots of local events in Melbourne’s West this summer!

Melbourne’s west is the place to be this summer, so no matter where you live be sure to come and enjoy the events the local councils are supporting!

  • Movies by the Bay – Altona and Williamstown (every Friday in January 2014)
  • Free Dog’s Breakfast (Saturday 4 January 2014)
  • Wildlife Display (13 – 17 January 2014)
  • Midsumma comes to Melbourne’s West – Go West!  (12 January 12 to 2 February 2014)
  • Australia Day in Altona (Sunday 26 January 2014)
  • Summer Sounds in Altona and Williamstown (every Sunday in February)

See below for more details.

Free Movies by the Bay

Outdoor cinema returns to Hobsons Bay at two waterfront locations. Enjoy great films under the stars at this popular free family event series. Bring your own picnic or stop at a local restaurant/cafe/take away shop before the screening and enjoy a delicious dinner.

Logan Reserve, Pier Street, Altona

  • Friday, 3rd January Despicable Me 2 (PG)
  • Friday, 17th January Smurfs 2 (G)
  • Friday, 31st January Turbo (G)

Commonwealth Reserve, Nelson Place, Williamstown

  • Friday, 10th January Iron Man 3 (M)
  • Friday, 24th January Red Dog (PG)


Free Dog’s Breakfast!

Free breakfast for dogs and their owners.  Special guests include the Snake Bus, local vets offering discounted microchipping, and The Connies.
Altona Doggy Beach – Altona Road, Seaholme Saturday 4th January from 8.30am to 10.30am.


Wildlife Displays

Get up close to snakes, frogs, lizards and stick insects!
Altona North Community Library (13-15 January) and Altona Library (16-17 January)

and more – see attached flyer for details.


Midsumma comes to Melbourne’s West – Go West!

GoWest collectively brings together local organisations and artists supporting and representing the GLBTIQ (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer) communities in the western region of Melbourne. Whether you live or work in the west, or have been looking for an excuse to visit and explore, everyone is invited to celebrate the rich diversity of our community.

Hobsons Bay City Council proudly supports the GLBTIQ community and has been a officially celebrating Midsumma with GOWEST since 2009.

Go West events include:

  • Intersexion Documentary Screening (documentary about intersex people) – 13 January
  • WESTANDPROUD (Community construction of an official rainbow crossing) – 15 January
  • How I found my NICHE (Speakers will share their insights about LGBTIQ communities) – 16 January
  • Radicalism (Artists and activists from across Australia examine radicalism, resistance and defiance associated with questions of gender and sexuality) – 17 January to 23 February
  • Ghosts of the Old City Williamstown (Explore Williamstown’s secret spooky haunts) – 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26 and 31 February and 1 and 2 February)
  • Rainbow Party (Youth party at the Youth Resource Centre in Hoppers Crossing) – 17 January
  • Author Talk ‘f2m: the boy within’ (Author discusses her book about transmen) – 18 January
  • Just Dance (dance based fitness class for young people followed by a bbq and fun activities) – 18 January
  • Wyndham Arvo Tea (share a cuppa rainbow style and celebrate Midsumma in Wyndham – yummy food, inflatable art, music etc) – 18 January
  • AIDS Memorial Quilt Making Weekend (help create a quilt in memory of a loved one) – 18-19 January
  • Free Sailing Day (Crew up or kick back on land and enjoy live music and drinks with fellow GLBTIQ sailors and landlubbers) – 19 January
  • A Perfect Midsumma Afternoon (Enjoy a perfect mid summa afternoon with friends, a G&T and croquet – very civilised!) – 19 January
  • Rainbow Families Bedtime Story Time (enjoy a special evening story time to celebrate diverse families.  Wear your pyjamas, bring your teddies and enjoy being with other queer families) – 20 January
  • LGBTIQ Equality Initiatives in Local Government (learn about what local government is doing for our GLBTIQ community and discuss ways we can improve) – 23 January
  • Queer as Anything: Open Mic in the West (Interested in trying stand up or another type of 5 to 7 minute performance?) 24 January
  • Finucane & Smith’s Caravan Burlesque… Goes West! (Burlesque at it’s best) – 24, 25 and 31 January, and 1 February.
  • One Day Camp-Fest (Enjoy local music in Footscray with your friends) – 27 January
  • Team Melbourne Midsumma Sports Day 2014 (try your hand at a range of different sports and activities including dancing, tennis, volleyball, running, swimming and much more) – 1 February
  • Out at Twighlight (enjoy an afternoon of free entertainment in Sunshine featuring the Melbourne Gay and Lesbian Youth Chorus) – 1 February
  • PRIDE MARCH (march with other western suburbs GLBTIQ people as part of the Go West group!) – 2 February
  • NO H8 Campaign Australia (the infamous marriage equality campaign comes down under for the first time – and to Newport!) – 15 February

For more details of the events and to book tickets (even for free events), please visit –



Australia Day in Altona

Are you looking for something to do on Australia Day? Why not come to Altona with your family and friends to soak up all that Altona has to offer including:

– Outdoor market
– Cobb & Co Coach Rides
– Camel rides
– Roving entertainment
– Free children’s activities (face painting, sand art etc)
– Altona Homestead Australiana Exhibition with music & food
– Devonshire Tea in the park (Country Women’s Association)
– Great Aussie Sausage Sizzle
– Live music all day (2 stages)
– Great outdoor cafes
– Aussie Car Display
– Fireworks at 9pm

Proudly supported by the Hobsons Bay City Council and organised by the Altona Village Traders Association.

Altona Beach, Sunday 26th January from 11am to 9pm.



Summer Sounds – every Sunday in February!

We have lots more free and fun things to do in Altona and Williamstown over summer!  The council proudly presents our annual Summer Sounds series at Logan Reserve, Altona (across the road from the pier) and Commonwealth Reserve, Williamstown. We have something for everyone, including Swing, Jazz, Blues, Folk, Funk, Rock, Soul and Country!

All these events are FREE, so bring your family and friends, a picnic, rug and deck chairs and enjoy! We also have lots of lovely cafes and restaurants nearby.



Council Meeting – 8 October 2013

The following are some of the issues I raised in the council chambers tonight:

Altona Beach – seaweed collection & recycling
I requested an update about the council’s new seaweed collection process.  The council has experienced significant delays in receiving the new equipment which will improve the process to collect seaweed and recycle it into liquid fertilizer once it commences.  I am now waiting a report on this issue.


Clean-up following last week’s storm
I conveyed the community’s general appreciation of the council officers and the Altona SES for responding so quickly in the hours and days after the recent storms.  I also asked for details about the clean up.  Council officers advised the removal of trees is ongoing, and that residents can contact the council on 9932 1000 if they have specific concerns about trees or damage that is still outstanding.


Altona Doggy Beach.
The dredging at the Altona Boat Ramp/Safe Harbour has resulted in significant amount of smelly and unsightly silt being deposited on the Altona Doggy Beach. Many residents have complained to me about this, with people even saying they will no longer use the area with their dogs. Can you explain why the silt had to be deposited on the Doggy Beach? When will it be removed? Can officers please review the process for the next round of dredging so that the very popular Doggy Beach isn’t adversely impacted in the future?


Hobsons Bay Maltese Association car park
I asked for another update on the mid term budget review and design work for the proposed Hobsons Bay Maltese Association car park.  I was advised that plans are being developed and are almost finished, and this will help identify how much needs to be allocated in the budget.  I completely support the construction of this car park and hope it will be constructed next year.


Air Quality issues in Brooklyn and Altona North
At tonight’s meeting I sought information about the air quality issues in Brooklyn and Altona North including the results of the Senate Inquiry and the local efforts with the state government including health monitoring.  The council officers undertook to prepare and provide relevant reports about these matters for a future council meeting.  I will keep the community updated with any progress.


Petition about Sommers Parade Park/Playground
I gladly presented and spoke in favour of a petition signed by 64 residents that stated:

“We hereby respectfully petition the Councillors of the City of Hobsons Bay to improve safety at the playground on the corner of Somers Parade, Seagull Avenue and Blyth Streets, Altona by providing fencing to prevent children from going onto oncoming traffic. This little playground is surrounded by roads on three sides, and is located in the middle of a busy bus terminal, shopping strip and kindergarten, thus raising the risk of children running onto oncoming traffic.”

A report will now come back to the council in response to this petition.  I support the council installing an appropriate fence around this park.


Altona and Seaholme Foreshore Master Plan
I expressed my disappointment about how long this process is taking.  Since being elected I have ensured the council has undertaken improvement works along the foreshore (look at the work in recent years to Apex Park, Doug Grant Reserve, Frazer Reserve, Logan Reserve, Ransom Reserve and the Altona Boat Ramp) but the Master Plan process has taken too long despite ongoing assurances that the work is being undertaken.  I successfully changed the motion last night and am pleased it enjoyed the support of the other councillors.


The next public council meeting will be held at the Laverton Community Hub (95-105 Railway Avenue, Laverton) at 6.45pm, Tuesday 22nd October, 2013.

Wedding news!

I am pleased to announce Manja and I were married in Dunedin, New Zealand on 27 September 2013.  Sadly we were unable to marry in Australia as the law here requires marriage to be “between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others”.  It is difficult for someone born both male and female (like me) to fit such a narrow and outdated definition.  Thankfully, being intersex is not an impediment to marriage in a number of countries now, including New Zealand!

Our wedding was beautiful and the people of Dunedin made us extremely welcome.  I would like to thank everyone that helped make our day so special.