From St Kilda to Paris

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Serge Thomann, former Deputy Mayor of the City of Port Phillip

Nice to be back on the pages of St Kilda News! Thank you for the open invitation that SKN has offered me. I agreed to write a column from time to time, when I’ve got something to say. I have now decided to take up the offer for the first time, especially as many people have told me they miss me.

Let me firstly say how proud I am that St Kilda and Fitzroy Street have been chosen as the site for the first Australian Pride Centre. The Centre will serve as a hub for LGBTI groups and organisations, showcase LGBTI culture and history, bring together health and support services and provide community spaces similar to the one in San Francisco. When I found out that the State Government was looking for a place, I originally suggested to our CEO that we should go for it and that this was the best address. She loved my idea. I always thought that to amalgamate the former Monroe’s site, the chemist and the car park would potentially offer a great opportunity for Fitzroy Street, and this will now become the Price Centre, with a Council investment of $13 million. I kept working on the submission until the very end of my time as a Councillor, even during caretaker mode, as the submission was due end of October / early November. I asked my dear friend Rachel Griffiths to lead a short film on why the Pride Centre’s only place was St Kilda and I thank her for her kindness as it was a very busy time for her. And I am now looking forward to seeing the Pride Centre take shape.

I also talked about the Gatwick to the producer of the Block over three years ago and Julian told me he would look at it very carefully. And now it too is moving forward. And I am very glad the state government and other housing organisations have taken the lead with assisting and re-housing The Gatwick residents. It’s so very good to see new life generating in Fitzroy Street. Good luck to The Block in 2018!

I have also been asked a lot about the French Presidential Elections. Never has France been in such a situation and these elections are totally unpredictable. The left is divided after 5 years of unhappy years under President François Hollande, who surprisingly decided not to stand again, having only a popularity rate of less than 15%. The early favourite François Fillon, from the right side of politics, is in the midst of various legal actions after it was revealed that he employed his wife and children as his staff, paying them over $1 million over 20 years in what is called “emplois fictifs” or “fictional employment.”  Fillon has decided to keep going, leaving a lot of people wondering and disappointed.

Many St Kilda locals are worried about Marine Le Pen, Leader of the French Extreme Right, Le Front National, becoming the next President of France. She too is under legal investigation for abuse of public funds, but has so far refused to answer any questions from the courts. No, believe me, Marine will not become the President of France, and thanks God for that! Her protectionist agenda, leaving the European Union etc, will never appeal to a majority of French people. The French Presidential elections are conducted in two separate rounds and the winner must get 50% of the votes in the second round.

And here comes 39yo former Minister of Economy Emmanuel Macron, who started his own political movement about a year ago, En Marche! or EM! for Emmanuel Macron! Macron is positioning himself as being from both the left and the right. He has got a broad and ambitious agenda, is an amazing public speaker and has got a fresh face, and is supported by the main French centrist politician, the very popular François Bayrou. All of this makes him the favourite to become President of France in May 2017. The Greens will not have a candidate this year and have joined the two candidates of the left (Hamon and Melanchon) and Macron. The results in The Netherlands have already shown that Europe will never elect Trump-like candidates. The polls have Macron and Le Pen equal for the first round at 26%, with Fillon third at 19% and then Macron winning with 65% of the vote in the second run.

One of the rumoured supporters of Macron is the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Monsieur Jean-Marc Ayrault, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the Alliance Française in St Kilda a couple of weeks ago (pic). Monsieur Ayrault is a highly respected French politician, former Prime Minister and Mayor. Welcome to St Kilda!

Until the next time I have news to share…

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