By Luke Voogt
Former mayor Darren Lyons has welcomed calls for state authorities to cut their funding of Committee for Geelong.
“I think the lobbying sector in Geelong is out of control,” Mr Lyons said.
“We’ve become the city for committees.
“They’re unelected people in the big end of town and they don’t represent the views of the ratepayer.”
Last week council hopeful Michael King called for local, federal and state authorities to cut their $25,000 corporate memberships of the committee.
Public funding of private groups meant to lobby governments failed the “pub test”, he said.
Mr Lyons also backed Mr King’s call for the next Geelong council to reduce its contribution to municipal alliance body G21 and to take charge of its own lobbying.
“It’s becoming way too costly for City of Greater Geelong,” Mr Lyons said.
“What we need to do is pool that money into a (council) lobby group for the city and its ratepayers.”
He cited Deakin University lobbying Federal Government as an example of effective “internal” lobbying.
The “power struggle” between Geelong’s various lobby groups was “embarrassing” and “hurting” the city, Mr Lyons said.
The chief executive officers of the committee and G21, Rebecca Cason and Elaine Carbines, seemed “at each other’s throats,” he said.
But Mr Lyons credited Ms Carbines with running G21 “efficiently”.
Committee for Geelong’s various overseas trips had failed to bring “a single dollar into Geelong”, he said.
The committee could spend private members’ “money however it wished” but government funding created conflicts of interest, Mr Lyons said.
“Embarrassingly, it’s become a puppet for the State Government.“
But Geelong Labor MP Christine Couzens said the city’s lobbyists represented “Geelong across the board”.
“It’s not just the big end of town. They’re all working together to get ComCare to Geelong.”
Ms Couzens saw no conflict of interest in TAC, National Disability Insurance Agency, Victorian Regional Channels Authority and Barwon Water paying corporate memberships of Committee for Geelong.
The committee’s $800,000 in state funding for its leadership program did not make the committee beholden to the Andrews Government, she said.
“Lots of agencies get State Government grants for various things, so as long as whoever gets the State Government grant is doing the right thing, why shouldn’t they get it?”
Member for Western Victoria Simon Ramsay was “loath” to criticise public funding of the committee or G21, saying both did a “reasonable job” representing members.
Mr Ramsay described the committee as “apolitical in their dealings with the government of the day”.