6 Month Review

The last 6 months have been challenging in Town Hall as the city has grappled with the implications of the coronavirus pandemic. The shift to a monthly meeting regime has continued to impact on Council’s business, with heated debates often spilling into the early hours of the morning.

I have continued to advocate for a response to the pandemic that puts our city’s people and environment first. Sadly many of my ideas have been resisted by the conservative ‘Team Adelaide’ faction.

Some of the key debates and discussions in Town Hall are summarised below.

June

Council pushes ahead with Hutt Street Centre review

In June, I moved to revoke Council’s decision to back a pointless review into the Hutt Street Centre:

The decision to review the Hutt Street’s Centre’s compliance with planning regulations in the midst of an economic crisis is appalling and out of step with the community’s expectations of its City Council. My move to abandon the review was opposed by Councillors Hyde, Couros, Hou, Knoll, Khera and Moran. The vote was tied on the Council floor and so, sadly, the Lord Mayor exercised her vote against my motion and in favour of proceeding with the review. You can read more about the decision here.

Community grants slashed

Council approved a range of community grants over the value of $10,000. This included grants to organisations working with some of our city’s most vulnerable people, like the Hutt St Centre, Catherine House and Uniting Communities. Many of these grants were to be for three years, but Councillor Khera moved to restrict funding to just one year – pending the outcome of a review. This amendment was supported by Clrs Hyde, Abrahimzadeh, Couros, Hou and Knoll. I was disgusted that organisations will now face more uncertainty about funding during this pandemic and argued that the grants should have been approved for this 3 year cycle.

Council to advocate for city’s arts community

The arts and cultural sectors make an enormous contribution to community life in our city. A large number of workers in these sectors are casual workers and visa holders – who have been left out of the Government’s JobKeeper program. I moved for Council to call on the federal government to expand JobKeeper to include workers from the arts and cultural sectors and introduce a support package. The motion was supported by Council and the Lord Mayor was asked to write to the Prime Minister on the issue.

More exercise equipment for the Park Lands?

The pandemic has seen more people exercising in our Park Lands than ever before. I was delighted that Council backed my call for administration to investigate cost-effective options to increase the availability of exercise equipment in public spaces (eg: chin up bars) to encourage people to continue actively using our Park Lands.

Automated pedestrian crossings abandoned

In March, Council introduced automated pedestrian crossings to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus.

Sadly Councillor Hyde successfully overturned the measure (with the support of Clrs Abrahimzadeh, Couros, Hou, Khera and Knoll) arguing that it was disruptive for cars. I have received lots of feedback from the community about this and share your disappointment. I will continue to argue for transport policy that prioritises pedestrian safety.

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July

Another transparency measure blocked

To help promote transparency in Town Hall, I proposed that administration publish the official diaries of the Lord Mayor, Deputy Lord Mayor and Councillors on the City of Adelaide website in the form of a table/list of daily official commitments. Sadly the motion was blocked with only Councillors Donovan, Mackie, Martin and Moran in support. I will continue to fight for Councillors to be more transparent with electors about their work.

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August

Late night meetings continue

Council continues to break records for sitting times with many meetings spilling into the early hours of the morning. After a move to start meetings during business hours was defeated, Clr Martin proposed that meetings be capped at 4 hours. Sadly, the Team Adelaide faction opposed the move and have continued to argue for the failed monthly meeting structure. Councillors Donovan, Mackie, Martin, Moran and I backed Clr Martin’s call.

Council knocks-back rate-waiver for people who are unemployed

Clr Martin proposed a plan for rate relief as part of Council’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Councillor Martin’s motion was taken in parts and I argued for owner occupiers who are on JobSeeker to be provided with a 100 per cent rate waiver for a quarter. Sadly the move was opposed by a majority of Councillors, with only Councillors Mackie, Martin, Moran and I in favour.

Driver’s Month insanity

Councillor Khera proposed Council deliver a ‘Driver’s Month’ initiative to encourage more cars into the CBD. The plans involve signage encouraging more cars, lottery prizes for people using the Parking App and increasing the speed-limit to 60 km/hr around the Park Lands.

The idea is completely out of step with Council’s plans to be a carbon neutral city and has exposed Town Hall to public ridicule. Bizarrely, it was backed by Deputy Lord Mayor (Councillor Hyde) and Councillors Abrahimzadeh, Couros, Hou, Khera and Knoll.

You can read more about Driver’s Month here:

Council calls on Government to increase JobSeeker

More than 40 local Councils around the country have called on the Federal Government to provide a permanent and adequate increase in the jobseeker payment. I was pleased that my motion for Adelaide City Council to join them won unanimous support.

Keep fossil fuels out of cycling

It’s absurd that a fossil fuel company, Santos is the naming rights sponsor of the Tour Down Under, the biggest cycling event in the Southern Hemisphere. This event is about promoting clean, green living and shouldn’t be used to promote the fossil fuel industry.

I moved for Council to request that the Lord Mayor write to Events South Australia, urging them to seek the support of clean corporate partners that are not linked to fossil fuel industries for the Tour Down Under in the future. Sadly this motion was defeated with only Councillors Martin, Moran and I in favour.

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September

Council to investigate free public transport for the CBD

I moved that Council request that administration prepare a report with options to offer free bus, train and tram tickets to encourage visitors to the city.

Following the community backlash against the absurd ‘Driver’s Month’ initiative, I argued that Council needed to look at initiatives that encourage active, sustainable transport. I was delighted that my motion secured the support of a majority of Councillors. It was backed by Councillors  Couros, Donovan, Mackie, Martin and Moran and opposed by Councillors Hyde, Abrahimzadeh, Hou, Khera and Knoll. You can read more about the discussion here and here.

Free cycling lessons

I was pleased that Council also backed my call to offer free cycling lessons until the end of the year to encourage cycling and improve safety. The courses will be offered for a period of three months. You can sign-up here.

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October

Council digs in on Driver’s Month

Councillor Moran tried to revoke Council’s decision to hold ‘Driver’s Month’ in November. Sadly the move was blocked by Councillors Hyde, Abrahimzadeh, Couros, Hou, Khera and Knoll and the initiative will now go ahead as planned.

Hutt Street Centre review released

The review commissioned by conservative Councillors into the Hutt St Centre has found that the centre is compliant with planning regulations. I remain outraged that the Hutt St Centre has been put through months of uncertainty as a result of this process. I hope that conservative Councillors will now drop this crusade and support the centre’s vital work. You can read more here.

Not more back-peddling in Town Hall

It was a pleasure to speak to CityMag about my vision for Adelaide and the need to promote more green transport in our city. You can read more here.

All I want for Christmas is…?

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As the year comes to a close, I’d love to hear from you about your priorities for Adelaide City Council in 2020. What’s on your Christmas wish-list?  

Please take a few moments to complete this survey by selecting up to five priorities.

Thank you for your time and best wishes for the festive season! 

(Trouble displaying survey? try this link).

Sign up to get my regular updates from Town Hall.

 

Councillor’s Update (March)

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(Clr Phil Martin and I meeting with climate change campaigners before Tuesday night’s meeting)

Welcome

This has been a busy month on Council, as we have worked to develop our budget and dealt with proposals for more action on climate change, improving amenity on Hindley Street and Council’s influence on the Adelaide Parklands Authority.

Rather than issuing my newsletter fortnightly, I have decided to move to a more detailed monthly format. Please let me know your thoughts on this approach!

More immediate updates are posted on my Facebook.

Car Parking In North Adelaide

On the 12th of March, North Ward Councillor Phil Martin proposed that Council “approves the issue of one on street parking permit for a period of one year to a nominated vehicle registered to a dwelling which has only one off street parking space. Such permits will be made available on application and will be strictly limited to one for each address except in special circumstances as may be determined by the Administration.”

The cost of the permit will be $100. I moved an amendment proposing that any money raised from the permits be directed towards cycling infrastructure in the city in recognition of the impact of cars on carbon emissions. Unfortunately the amendment was lost with just Councillor Donovan and I in support.

E-Scooter Trial Extended

The e-scooters have been a great success and I would like to see these continue but I’m also  keen to  look at options for Lime (or any other provider) to contribute towards maintenance of our footpaths via a small levy (given they are using our public space).

Councillor Abrahimzadeh moved an amendment to a motion from Councillor Hyde on e-scooters on the 12th of March to “extend the existing trial permit for Lime to operate in the City for up to four weeks while we undertake an EOI for up to two operators for a six-month permit, with an option to extend based on performance.”

I moved an amendment that Council investigate purchasing a fleet of e-scooters to generate income for the Council or investigate charging a small levy. While the idea was backed by Cllrs Moran, Martin and Donovan  – the other Councillors voted to defeat the amendment. I will continue to look at options to generate new revenue for the Council. Lime are a multi-million dollar US company, it seems unfair that all of their profits should go off-shore. Additionally, relying on revenue from car parking as our only business is not sustainable for the Council. You can read more about the outcome here.

Increased Support for City’s Homeless 

On the 12th of March, Councillor Hyde moved that Council “budgets a further contribution of $200,000 in the 2019-2020 budget consideration process, contingent on State Government funding the remaining requirement to implement other recommendations of the Institute on Global Homelessness report.” I supported this motion but moved an amendment to contribute the funds now (rather than waiting for the state government to make a commitment). Councillors Moran, Martin and Donovan voted in support of my amendment but it was defeated by the other Councillors.

Encouraging Public Transport Use

Councillor Houssam Abiad moved a motion to “investigate an automated system for uParks to allow City Businesses to validate customers UPark Tickets.” While I understand the need to encourage more people back into the city, I don’t believe that we should only reward customers that travel by car. Surely we should be encouraging people to come into the city through various modes of transport? In particular, we need to look at how we can encourage more sustainable transport options. To that end, I moved to amend the motion to include an investigation of a scheme to reimburse public transport users. This was supported by Councillors Donovan, Martin and Moran but opposed by the majority on Council. I’m disappointed that Council refused to even investigate the idea and will continue to advocate for alternatives to cars to be included in any of Council’s business activation plans. You can read more about the discussion in Indaily and The Advertiser.

Freezing the Rates?

Earlier this month, Councillors Knoll and Moran both proposed motions looking at freezing the rate in the dollar. I opposed these on the basis that I am concerned this could lead to cuts to community services. You can read more about the discussion here.

Climate Emergency

On Tuesday night I proposed that Council join 400 other local councils around the world in “recognising that there is a climate emergency that represents a serious threat to our wellbeing, economy, built infrastructure, services, water supplies, environment and reputation as a liveable city”.

The motion also called on the council’s administration to investigate how it could improve water resilience and ensure an equitable distribution of trees across the city as part of the future budget consideration process. I also proposed that the Lord Mayor lobby the State Government to decarbonise the city’s free connector bus and to electrify its passenger vehicle fleet, through the Capital City Committee. See this article in InDaily for more information.

Three other Councils in SA, Light, Marion and Adelaide Hills were debating similar motions. Had the motion passed, Adelaide would have become the first capital city in the country to join the movement to declare a climate emergency. Unfortunately the motion was amended by Councillor Abiad to remove the reference to a climate emergency and so this opportunity was lost.

Despite this setback, we further highlighted the urgent need for climate action and secured funding in this budget for climate initiatives. I was pleased that all Councillors backed the investigation of more opportunities to green our streets and improve water resilience. This article summarises the debate. Light and Adelaide Hills Councils both passed climate emergency motions.

Action on Hindley Street

The state of the footpaths and failure to enforce regulations have been issues of ongoing concern for West End traders. I moved that Council:

“1.Notes that:

the pavers on the footpaths along Hindley Street (from Morphett Street to King William Street) are in an unsatisfactory condition and require repair or replacement;

– a number of regulations relating to outdoor dining and queuing on Hindley Street at night are not being enforced.

2.Requests that administration prepare costings (as part of the 2019-2020 budget process) for:

-repairing or replacing the pavers on the footpaths on Hindley Street, from Morphett Street to King William;

– creating the position of Night Time Precinct Officer to enforce Council regulations on Hindley Street at night.”

Councillor Abiad amended the motion to note previous motions he had moved on Hindley Street and put administration on notice to comply with these. I offered to accept this amendment as a variation but this was rejected by the Deputy Lord Mayor, who chose to move his an amended motion. I voted in favour of the amended motion as it wasn’t in contradiction.

Future of the Free City Bus

One of the reasons I oppose freezing rates is the impact this can have on service delivery. A potential budget saving identified by administration was cutting the free city connector bus. Cuts to community grants and festivals were also proposed.

While these are now off the table, in favour of ‘efficiencies to be made across the organisation’, according to media reports the State Government are reviewing their support for the bus. This is very concerning to me. I will continue to advocate for the bus to be funded into the future.

Council Surrenders Power on Parklands Authority

On Tuesday night, a majority of Council voted to replace Councillors Moran, Martin, Donovan and I with external experts, on the Parklands Authority. Councillor Alex Hyde has been elected Council’s sole representative on the Authority. While I make no criticism of the external representatives, this is surely the first time that Council has willingly reduced its influence in this way. I worry it could create an APLA that is more compliant to the government and less responsive to community concerns.

My comments on this were reported in The Advertiser and InDaily

Is it time for an Adelaide Parklands Foundation?

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With the Parklands under attack like never before, perhaps now is the right time to consider an independent Parklands Foundation. The Foundation model has worked in Sydney and allows members of the community to make tax-deductible donations to support building community awareness and appreciation of the Parklands. I spoke to The Advertiser about my plans (see above, 20 March 2019). The Adelaide Park Lands Authority agreed to investigate the idea. Let me know what you think!

The Return of the Helipad?

I was alarmed to read media reports that the Helipad on the River Torrens is back on the agenda. As I told The Advertiser, residents will not want a return of the helipad.

“Helipads on the parklands are a political cold sore for the council. Just when you think the idea is gone, it comes back again.”

I am on the public record opposing this project and will continue to speak up for residents. The parklands belong to all of us and should not be used for joy-rides for the mega rich. You can read the full article here.

Assisting the City’s Homeless

A new website has been launched to assist with referring people in need to support services.

If you see someone who is sleeping rough in the city or the parklands, you may wish to refer them to Street Connect. You can do this through the new website: www.streetconnect.sa.gov.au  

The website allows you to pinpoint someone’s exact location, so that support workers can find them and offer assistance.

If someone is in immediate danger, please call 000.

Contact Me

If I can assist you with a local issue, please do not hesitate to contact me on: R.Simms@adelaidecitycouncil.com.au or 0466 829 909.

I am based in Town Hall on Tuesdays. If you would like to arrange a time to meet please let me know!

Remember to subscribe to this newsletter please scroll down and enter your email address into the bottom left of this page.

Disclaimer

Please note, the views in this newsletter are my own and do not purport to be those of Adelaide City Council.

Identity Politics in the Age of Trump

I was recently watching a documentary about the Trump Presidency and saw a highly disturbing interview with a man representing an organisation called ‘Gays for Trump’. I was shocked that a gay man, someone who has presumably experienced a level of discrimination himself, could support a candidate who so clearly fans the flames of hatred and division.

Unfortunately, of course, this isn’t really that unusual. Right-wing political parties in Australia have LGBTQ members and many LGBTQ people continue to support parties that actively stymie progress on our human rights. Voters weigh up a variety of factors before casting their ballots and LGBTQ people, like all other members of the community, wear a number of different hats. We are workers, bosses, parents, brothers, sisters, partners — all of these identities colour the way in which we see ourselves and the political world.

Continue reading “Identity Politics in the Age of Trump”

Greens Push For National Water Centre

Bension Siebert, Indaily, 24 June 2016

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The research centre is the latest pledge from the Greens as next week’s July 2 federal election looms.

Under the plan, the institute would be given almost $27 million per year to conduct research on sustainable agriculture, water recycling, stormwater harvesting, water-sensitive urban design and water efficiency.

Continue reading “Greens Push For National Water Centre”

Should Religion Be Exempt From Anti-Discrimination Laws?

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Greens senator Robert Simms wants to remove religious exemptions from the Sex Discrimination Act. He says the provisions in the law allow for religious organisations to discriminate against staff or clients who are from sexual minorities. To debate the question, we talked to Senator Simms and Terry Tobin, a leading Queens Counsel and former chancellor of Notre Dame University.

Listen to the debate on the Religion and Ethics Report. 

Greens Promise To End Religious Exemptions To Sex Discrimination Act

Paul Karp, The Guardian, 17 May 2016 

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The Greens have promised to remove religious exemptions to federal anti-discrimination law and increase funding to the Safe Schools anti-bullying program.

The promises are contained in broad-ranging Greens policy for LGBTI rights to be released on Tuesday by their LGBTI equality spokesman, Robert Simms, and gender identity spokeswoman, Janet Rice.

Continue reading “Greens Promise To End Religious Exemptions To Sex Discrimination Act”

Michelle Grattan talks to Robert Simms about the evolution of The Greens

The future of senator Robert Simms, one of the freshest faces in the Greens team, may hang on whether he is first or second on his party’s ticket. In his home state of South Australia, where the Nick Xenophon Team looks to be strong, the Greens face a particularly tough battle. But Simms tells Michelle Grattan he thinks the Greens have a chance of retaining their two seats. Listen to the interview here. 

 

More Action Needed To Combat Homophobia In Schools And In Parliament

I was about 10 when I was first called a “fag” and a “poof”. At that time I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I knew it wasn’t a compliment. The names had a new sting when I realised that I was gay and even though I was in the closet for my teenage years, it seemed there was no fooling the kids in the school yard. The idea of coming out and being open about my sexuality filled me with dread.

There’s no doubt that Australia has changed a lot since I was at school. There are far more gay people in public life and popular culture and differences in sexuality are discussed much more openly. That’s a wonderful thing. But unfortunately homophobia is still alive and well in the school yard and, as demonstrated last week, in parliament.

Continue reading “More Action Needed To Combat Homophobia In Schools And In Parliament”

This New Senator Had a Message For Australia’s LGBTI Kids In His Maiden Speech

Lane Saintly, Buzzfeed News, October 14, 2015 

“I stand here today as an out and proud gay man. But it certainly wasn’t always so,” Simms told the chamber.

“I remember I was around 12 when I realised I was gay, I was in my final year at primary school. It was a secret I carried for a long time – indeed I didn’t tell anyone until I was in my early twenties.”

A former councillor for the city of Adelaide and Greens political staffer, Simms replaced South Australian Greens senator Penny Wright. He holds the portfolios for higher education, LGBTI issues and water.

Simms joins three other openly LGB members of the Australian parliament, including Labor senator Penny Wong, Liberal senator Dean Smith and Greens senator Janet Rice.

Continue reading “This New Senator Had a Message For Australia’s LGBTI Kids In His Maiden Speech”

Simms To Propose $800 Million Green Jobs Scheme

Bension Siebert, InDaily, 30 September 2015 

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South Australia’s automative industry would receive part of a green-tinged $800 million funding package if a former Adelaide City councillor has his way.

New SA Greens Senator Robert Simms will propose a Green Car Transformation Scheme to directly subsidise environmentally friendly automotive industries as his first Bill when the Senate returns next month.

Continue reading “Simms To Propose $800 Million Green Jobs Scheme”

Simms To Propose $800 Million Green Car Scheme

Bension Sibert, InDaily, 30 September 2015

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South Australia’s automative industry would receive part of a green-tinged $800 million funding package if a former Adelaide City councillor has his way.

New SA Greens Senator Robert Simms will propose a Green Car Transformation Scheme to directly subsidise environmentally friendly automotive industries as his first Bill when the Senate returns next month.

Continue reading “Simms To Propose $800 Million Green Car Scheme”