By Rebecca Fraser
CASEY councillor and Narre Warren North Liberal candidate Mick Morland will temporarily step aside in the lead-up to the 2006 State election.
Cr Morland will seek a leave of absence from council as soon as Premier Steve Bracks calls the November election.
The Edrington Ward councillor said he did not want to “play politics” with the City of Casey and his residents would not be disadvantaged by his temporary absence.
Cr Morland shares his ward with Cr Brian Hetherton, and said during his absence from council his colleague would raise any issues of concern on his behalf so residents’ concerns were still addressed.
Cr Morland said the leave of absence would actually be of great assistance to him, as it would give him more time to doorknock and run his election campaign.
If elected, Cr Morland said he would have to seriously consider his position on Casey Council, and whether he could maintain both roles.
Cr Morland said if he did win the seat of Narre Warren North and decide to vacate his council post early, ratepayers would not have to foot the bill for a by-election to replace him, as one would not be necessary.
He said it was more than likely that Berwick Chamber of Commerce president Michael Hall would take over his role, as he came third in Edrington Ward at last November’s council election.
“If there was going to a be a cost to ratepayers I would not have run,” Cr Morland said.
His decision to step aside followed calls from the Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA) for councillors and mayors running for State Parliament to advise their communities clearly about their candidacy and step aside for the period of the election campaign.
VLGA chief executive Andrew Rowe said to avoid any misunderstanding about information or roles and to fully respect a community’s right to clearly accountable and transparent processes, the organisation advised mayors and councillors to tell their communities early and clearly of their candidacy for State Parliament.
“We suggest to those choosing to stay in office that they are clearly acting in their own rather than the community’s interest and that they are open to the accusation that any action they take as a mayor during the state election campaign is motivated by other considerations,” Mr Rowe said.
Casey mayor Kevin Bradford said it was a credit to Cr Morland that he had decided to step down.
“Local councillors should debate local issues,” he said.
“Obviously at times councillors deal with State and Federal Government issues but the debate should benefit the community not enhance a candidate’s election prospects.”
By Rebecca Fraser