Flood Relief – For Serbia

Recent local Media Articles have not given the full reasons for my decision not to support the Mayoral Minute for Serbian flood relief.

Below is my answer to several “hate emails” received as a consequence to the brief article in the Liverpool Champion,  it stated that I voted against the Mayoral Minute of a $10,000 donation, by the Mayor, to the Serbian Flood relief fundraiser, you may care to know my reasons.

Cllr Peter Harle

Dear …….

My apologies if it appears that I am discriminating against the Serbian Community, however, if you were at the council meeting, you would have heard that prior to voting on the “Mayoral Minute”  I had asked the Mayor; “Are you aware of any Federal Government contributions?” He said no, it appears the Mayor and his “Policy Adviser” failed to check. I checked immediately after receiving the Mayoral Minute and found that the Australian Federal Government had already provided substantial aid as the 10th highest contributor of the International Community and would provide more if needed.

Information here:

 http://foreignminister.gov.au/releases/Pages/2014/jb_mr_140526a.aspx

The original amount proposed was $10,000 which the Mayor reduced to $5,000 after my query.

You may not be aware that Australia, via the Federal Government, gives billions of dollars in overseas aid every year, including flood relief for; Serbia, Bosnia, Herzogovinia and Croatia, I believe that every Australian taxpayer contributes fairly and proportionally via that process. Forcing only 77,000 ratepayers of the 200,000 Liverpool residents to contribute and then only to Serbia is highly discriminatory and unfair, irrespective of the amount.

Unfortunately, for most donations, a very large percentage (up to 80%) is absorbed in administration fees, often leaving very little that actually reaches the intended recipients.

For that reason I do not believe in supporting these type of requests conceived just prior to a General Council Meeting. Note; most Councillors are unaware of any “Mayoral Minute” until the actual Council meeting. “Mayoral Minutes” are intended to be used in an emergency and if the seven day deadline to lodge a Notice of Motion has expired. Mayoral Minutes at times appear to be used as a means of circumventing the normal process for lodging a “Notice of Motion” which is evaluated by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for relevant comments and advice. No such comments or advice was given, hence my questions to the Mayor.

I have supported similar emergency “token” donation amounts in the past, but only if they are distributed via recognised agencies that ensure every dollar donated reaches the intended destination. There was no such guarantee in this Mayoral Minute, hence my lack of support.

Concerns raised by international communities:

http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/serbian-govt-urged-to-disclose-donations

The article in the Liverpool Champion is very brief, although I did state my reasons which were similar to those given here, but not fully published (due to space constraints)  and leaving many readers with highly emotive opinions.

I regularly donate substantial amounts of money to many charities and organisations including; Rotary International, Quota, Lions, International Red Cross etc., all of these ensure donations reach the intended recipients, but it is my choice, not the Mayors nor any political party.

In my opinion, it is not our Local Councils’ function to contribute to overseas aid, or indeed within Australia. That is a Federal Government responsibility, they collect taxes and redistribute them. The main function of any Local Council is to serve the ratepayers of their Local Government Area (LGA). In addition, I believe in the basic premise that “Rates are for Roads and Rubbish”. Far too often Councils involve themselves in matters that have little to do with them, often it only adds to an ever increasing backlog in maintenance and infrastructure, Liverpool’s is currently more than $200 million.  Also keep in mind that Liverpool City Council has spent almost $300,000 on “donations” to numerous organisations and individuals so far this year.

Many agencies and organisations, both Government and Non-Government, are specifically set up and funded to address international aid and support. I have no objections if Councils organise voluntary donation schemes, as they often do, but it should be up to individuals to freely contribute, not forcibly via unchallengeable rates, that is undemocratic.

I regularly attend numerous community forums, Resident Action Groups and Special Interest Forums. At these residents often suggest that “token” donations instigated by Politicians are often simply opportunistic “vote-buying” exercises. It would be far easier for me to simply support every donation proposal put forward by Councillors and the Mayor and avoid controversy. However my ethics do not allow that, consequently I receive objections and threats of recriminations by those unaware of my reasons.

I do not knowingly discriminate against any ethnic group, religion or organisation, but I do believe in fair, non discriminatory and equitable use of limited ratepayer funds.

In conclusion, I am well aware of the significant proportion of the Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian community, I regularly support many of them in various Council matters. Most agree with my reasons. However, you are entitled to your opinion as I am to mine, that is  democracy.

Happy to talk to you, any time and further explain my reasons if that would help.

Regards

Clr Peter Harle JP

Some of the Emails received:

Just read article in the paper, one word DISGRACEFUL.

Subject: Expressing disappointment for Serbian flood relief donation

Dear Mr Peter Harle,

I would like to express my disapproval of your choice against the much needed donation for the Serbian flood relief to the Serbian Cultural Club. You clearly seem to have no idea of the extent of the problem which many Serbian people have faced. Thousands and thousands of homes have been ruined and many lives lost. The country was already in a very bad state, and now that this disaster has happened, ANY amount of money will do good. $5000 may not seem a significant amount of money to you, but it definitely is to someone who has lost everything. And seeing as how many Serbian people reside in the suburb of Liverpool, I think you’re pulling a very fine line by doing this selfish move. Not to mention the fact that Australia’s government has done practically nothing to promote or send aid to Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia. The Serbian people in Australia have raised more money than your so called “government.” I think your move will go very bad in your favour as many Serbian people have now seen your decision.

Then there was this one.

To Peter Harle,

I am writing this email to you in disgust of you voting down Mayor Ned Mannoun’s move to donate $5,000 towards the Serbian Fundraiser in Middleton Grange that will be processed towards the flood relief aid that all of Australian-Serbians are currently conducting. It is a shame especially with the population of Serbians within your jurisdiction, who would’ve voted for you in the first place. This is a slap in the face of each individual who has.

Every dollar counts – so $5,000 would go a long way to assisting the relief and process in fixing damaged bridges, damaged houses, food, hygiene etc.

We have confidence in your feedback as we had confidence in voting you in!

Kind regards,

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1 Response to Flood Relief – For Serbia

  1. Signe says:

    Hi Peter, it saddened me that you received aggressive hateful mail, worse however is I was not surprised that some have seen this as a method to discredit you. Donations are a tricky issue and I respect your stance, albeit not a popular one, mostly to the recipients. I’m sure however that the publicity gained by the majority Councillors was exactly the reason for their generosity of our rates money, easier now I guess as they have a guaranteed 9% in perpetuity. This is not the first time these Councillors have used our rates money to their political gain and that of their Liberal colleagues, regrettably it is also likely not the last. I guess the upside is they think it necessary to begin a campaign to discredit you before the next election, lets hope the community is a wake up to their genuine intention.

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