Paying backward for Canberra trip to fit the conference bill

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THE outcome of a Mornington Peninsula Shire Council decision on Tuesday 11 December was a foregone conclusion.

The agenda item to agree to spend close to $1100 to send Cr Rosie Clark to Canberra was purely for the record and the bureaucratic process.

The conference Cr Clark was to attend was held on 27 and 28 November, nearly two weeks before her colleagues were asked to retrospectively agree to the cost. Unsurprisingly they signed off on the expense.

Cr Clark’s meals and accommodation came in at just under $500 while her return flights from Melbourne to Canberra cost $573.

In 2011, councillors agreed that the mayor of the day (or a nominated councillor) should attend South East Melbourne (SEM) meetings in Canberra.

SEM is a group of municipalities – Mornington Peninsula, Frankston, Bass Coast, Cardinia, Casey, Greater Dandenong and Kingston – which send representatives to Canberra to discuss their common needs with federal MPs.

Travelling alongside Cr Clark, the deputy mayor, was the shire’s economic development and tourism manager Tania Treasure. 

Newly elected mayor Cr David Gill said did not want to attend the SEM meetings and a report to council’s 11 December meeting by strategic governance officer Christine Aslanidis explained that the timing of the annual mayoral election had made it impossible to seek councillor permission for Cr Clark’s expenses.

Cr Clark, the deputy mayor, must report to her colleagues on the SEM meetings within 30 days of her return.

Cr Gill told The News that as mayor he “will generally not be going on those type of trips”.

“I have certainly put my views forward on overseas trips [opposed to them being made by councillors at ratepayers’ expense] and as a councillor for 10 years with the former Shire of Mornington I made no trips.”

He said councillors could make council-sanctioned trips using their expense accounts “or pay for themselves, as they sometimes do”.

“I can’t really tell people what to do, but if it was to go overseas I wouldn’t do it.”                  

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 8 January 2019

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