Thursday, September 25, 2014

If you're out to get someone, do you care about who gets caught in the crossfire?

Political Myer-Annual Report politics hurts Hobart.

It smears all Aldermen in one candidate’s political grab for position.

It destroys confidence in Hobart as a well-governed city open for business.

The insidious media and whispering campaign by various candidates for Hobart City Council is hurting confidence in Hobart.  It is smearing the Hobart’s brand, as a place which is well governed and open for business.

As Myer burnt down, the pressure on Hobart City Council from all levels was phenomenal, to get the store back up and opened up quickly. There was a real threat of losing Myer to Eastlands.  Small business owners in Hobart and Liverpool Street especially, have suffered real retail losses without the full presence of a large department store.

Hobart’s Aldermen have done everything they can to get the store re-opened.  All Aldermen got the best advice they could.  All Aldermen checked the probity of what they decided, based on meticulous legal and economic advice. Aldermen have relied on Myer’s understanding of the retail environment, and the value it represents to other businesses as a people attractor to our CBD.

I even argued at one point we should buy the site ourselves to get it re-built as quickly as possible.  Delays from a combination of RBF’s business decisions on the land and the impact of the GFC on investment significantly held up the project.  Yet Hobart’s Aldermen worked quickly to get the development application through, and have repeatedly urged the landowner to get on with the project.

What no one could predict was the rapidity of decline in retail, and the shift to e-retailing.  Myer hasn’t coped well with this, so even they are now delaying opening until 2016.

All Aldermen had access to confidential commercial data and knew they were making the best decisions they could at the time to get the project up and running.  On one hand to vote in favour in Closed meetings based on legal advice, and then go out in public to use the unpredicted downturn in circumstances in a push for getting public office is simply, in my opinion, an appalling abuse of process and trust.  It smears all the Aldermen, just because one candidate is gunning for another.

Council was never not going to release what it is required by law to do.  To imply otherwise is a smear on all Alderman, living and dead, who have participated in the Myer decision process.  Council has had to walk a fine line between legislative rules on one hand and contractual agreements on the other, and at all times has done the right thing by Hobart’s ratepayers.

Those sitting candidates pushing for release know that much of the commercial in confidence information will not be available for new candidates.  What will be released is unlikely to be read in the full context of what has happened since Myer burnt down to current times.  This smear campaign takes new candidates for fools. It sets them up to make comments not based on the full facts.  It is a distraction aimed at confusing the voters.  Worse, it undermines confidence in what local government is able to achieve.  If Council had walked away and said it was all up to the free market to decide, then there would be no crane on the skyline and Hobart retail the worse for it.

Myer is currently reassessing how it does retail across Australia. If Myer felt they can’t talk business with Hobart’s Aldermen without being subject to political backstabbing during elections in the future, who would blame them if they decided to walk and invest elsewhere?

People are elected on trust.  Abusing this trust in election times degrades us all.

Authorised by Eva Ruzicka, 10 Congress Street, South Hobart

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