“Feel Good” on ratepayers money.

Liverpool City Council approves spending $36,000 pa publishing Mayoral and Deputy Mayoral “feel good messages” in multiple languages.

At the General Council meeting of the 29th of July 2015, Liberal Councillor and Deputy Mayor Gus Balloot put forward a Notice of Motion to continue publishing both the Mayor and Deputy Mayors “message/column” in six ethnic newspapers and consider adding 4 more. The estimated annual cost is around $36,000. I objected and put forward three amendments which were subsequently defeated along party lines 4:6.

My amendments were:

  1. That Council discontinues publishing a Mayoral and Deputy Mayoral column in the ethnic press, and;
  2. That the Deputy Mayoral Column shall be replaced by a Councillors column, consisting of not more than 700 words, to be published in English in the two leading local papers on a rotational bi-weekly basis, and
  3. That all Councillors are given the opportunity to contribute to that column on a regular rotational basis.

My supporting arguments were:

“Multiculturalism in Liverpool is amongst the highest in Australia. However the one language that is universally spoken throughout Australia is Australian English.
It is incumbent upon all New Australians to learn that language as soon as possible in order to become a participating and contributing citizen of our community”.

In my opinion it would be far more beneficial to publish the Mayoral, Deputy Mayor or a Councillors opinion column in Australian English only, it would reinforce the need for residents to learn to read and write the spoken language of their adopted country as soon as possible.

I am also of the opinion that council could make far better use of the $36,000 currently spent publishing such non-essential information in multiple languages. Apart from the need to maintain rural roads and a myriad of comparable services, I am sure several charitable organisations in Liverpool would welcome a percentage of that money and make far better use of it than the effect a “feel good” statement would have on the community by the Mayor, Deputy Mayor or Councillors.

I also believe that it would make more sense to convert Development Application requirements and relevant important Council information into multiple languages rather than provide a dedicated column for the Mayor, Deputy Mayor or Councillors.
I have few objections to a “Mayoral Column”, since the Mayor is the official spokesperson of Council. However adding a Deputy Mayoral column, other than in the Mayors absence, is a waste of ratepayers resources.
In the previous term of Council 2008-12, Councillors contributed to a Councillors Column, which included the Deputy Mayor. However the Liberal dominated Council of this term (2012-2016) changed it so only their members are given media opportunities at ratepayers expense. I do not support spending more than $36,000 publishing “non-essential – feel good statements” in multiple-languages for a relatively small percentage of Liverpool’s overall population.

A report attached to the notice of motion stated that council currently advertises the Mayoral and Deputy Mayoral column on a weekly basis in the Liverpool Leader and the South West Advertiser.
In addition to this weekly advertising, the column also appears in several ethnic newspapers on a fortnightly basis.
The newspapers include those with the highest circulation for each of the top six language groups for the Liverpool area.
The decision to focus on the top six language groups was endorsed by council in 2013. (Despite similar objections at the time.)
The columns appears fortnightly in the six ethnic newspapers at a cost of approximately $36,000 a year, the report said.
The newspapers include: El-Telegraph, Vesti, Chieu Duong, La Fiamma, Indian Link and The Spanish Herald.

Below are some of the many email comments received; (None were against my proposed amendments.)

Clr Harle,
My thoughts exactly, on seeing the item on the agenda; how does this encourage people to learn English if they can read everything in their own language? I can see a bit of a point for elderly people but not enough to do this.

Hello Peter,
This is just a note to let you know that I agree with your stance on the local foreign media issue that is a cost to ratepayers of more than $35k pa. This is just a voice of support from a concerned community member. Wishing you success in opposing this at the next council meeting on Wednesday!

Clr Harle,
We totally agree with your opinion on the local foreign media issue that is to cost  ratepayers  more than $35,000 a year.  What a waste of funds when there are so many other things that need doing in the Council area, and for which they are crying poor.    It is up to people wanting to live here to learn the language and thus being able to read and understand English.  We have many friends from foreign countries that came here many years ago, and all have learned the English language.  Before people can take out Citizenship they should have to have a fair command of the language so as to understand the commitment they are making.   We too believe with so many notices and signs going up in foreign languages there is no incentive for people to learn the English language.  To spend such a huge sum on publishing the Mayor and Deputy Mayor’s Columns is not in the best interests of ratepayers.  If people from other lands wish to settle and participate in the Australian way of life, surely it is not too much to expect them to learn and understand the language of this country.  We do hope you will be able to make other Councillors see sense.  

Dear Peter.
We fully support your call for all Mayoral and/or Councillor notices be in Australian English, and above a minimal agreed dollar amount on a weekly basis, should be paid for out of Mayoral/Councillors own pockets.
Further, Councillor Notices could contain useful information about the actions residents of Liverpool should and should not do such as dumping rubbish on the streets. Much of what we have read in Mayoral/Councillor columns in the local press has been in support of their own actions and ‘’good deeds’’. We do not know of course, what is printed in other languages.

Eric Kontos from The SouthWestVoice had the story here:

http://www.southwestvoice.com.au/foreign-language-ads-fuel-war-of-words-on-liverpool-council/

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