Serge’s Column – September

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Bonjour St Kilda,

Hope you are all looking forward to the beginning of spring!

This month, I’ll approach a topic close to my heart but one which, I have got to say, I don’t speak about very often: faith and spirituality. Why? I have been privileged to be invited to a number of religious events as the Chair of the City of Port Phillip Multifaith Network, and I have had some very interesting experiences like never before.

First, I was invited to the Parliamentary Izmir Dinner at the beginning of the Ramadan. It was wonderful to be a part of such an interesting and diverse group of people. I also had the privilege of launching a new short movie “A Common Belief”, produced by the City of Port Phillip and funded by the Victorian Multicultural Commission. The film sets out to show that religious beliefs and differences enhance our community and there is actually much in common between these religious groups. The theme highlighted in “A Common Belief” is love: a value shared and cherished by all humans. Once again, it was wonderful to interact with members of the various religious faiths in our community who take part in the Multifaith Network: Bahai, Hare Krishna, Temple Beth, The Islamic Council, The Catholic Church, The Uniting and Baptist Church, and several more. Check out the short movie on YouTube or on the City of Port Phillip’s website www.portphillip.vic.gov.au/multifaith_network.htm

And a couple of weeks ago, I was asked to attend the retirement service of Rabbi Fred Morgan, at Temple Beth Israel in Alma Road. Fred has been a wonderful Rabbi in our city and has changed the synagogue where he was in charge because of his love of songs and music. A music foundation carrying his name and that of his wife, Sue, has even been set up by the congregation to remember his time at the synagogue. Fred has devoted a lot of time to social action and welfare, multifaith issues and has always been keen to share Jewish values with others. He says that he wants to “continue to help create a more caring and compassionate society.” I wish Fred well, as he is continuing as Emeritus Rabbi.

What really interested me during the farewell was the lecture about governance and the various forms of authority that has the aim of seeking justice for all. The lecture of the Torah was asking us to treat human beings as worthy of respect and dignity. Things have not changed in thousands of years and it is the way I look at my role.

Talking about justice for all, and still on the topic of multifaith, I have got to mention how much I enjoyed the movie “In Bob we trust” that had its premiere at MIFF and is coming out in October. I encourage you all to see this great local story, which starts when Father Bob Maguire is asked to retire as a priest by the Catholic Church, as he is too old. Maybe not everyone likes the way Father Bob does things but he gets things done and has devoted all his life to the poor and needy in his community, which is after all, the main role of a priest in his parish. No one deserves to be treated like Father Bob was and it is shameful of the Church to do what they did… I am sending a DVD to the Pope so he knows what goes on here! After all, Pope Francis has done the same in his city and I am sure he will show some compassion towards our Father Bob. Happy to say that I was born a Catholic and I am sorry to see the way Father Bob was treated.

On other matters, I am pleased to report that a more considered approach is being taken on the Route 96 YT / PTV project, with the authorities agreeing with me and Council that Route 96 is not just a Public Transport project, but an overall project. The whole precinct needs to be taken into consideration – not only in how we can get access to the area by car, bike, on foot and by public transport, but also to take into account the economic development of St Kilda. A high-level “Project Control Group” has been formed, including all main stakeholders, and two reference groups will look at all options: one focusing on Acland Street, the other on Fitzroy Street, which will guide Council – and PTV in making their final decision and choosing the right solution. The fight was worthwhile, and thank you all for your support. It was not always easy and I really hope that, by using everyone’s ideas, we will make the right choice.

On September 7, Australians will be asked to choose their new Parliament. To be honest, like most of you, I’ll be very pleased to see the end of an election campaign that has been going on since Julia Gillard announced the election for September 14. I am sick of yet another three-word-slogan and of hearing the word “cut” said over and again! I have been telling many ladies that they had “sex appeal” and I don’t think I have offended them. Most, in fact, were pleased with my generous thoughts. I wish well to whoever wins the election – in particular to either Ann Birrell, Michael Danby or Kevin Ekendahl (in alphabetical order!) – to whoever becomes the next MP for Melbourne Ports. UnChain has asked the candidates about local issues and you can see their responses on www.unchain.org.au. As a true independent, dedicated to my community, I’ll work with whoever is in Parliament, as I have for almost five years now, to make sure our community is looked after and gets what it needs!

I am also very pleased to welcome our new General Manager for Planning and Environment, Malcolm Snow, who has got a rich background that makes him a perfect choice for our city to go further. I am sure that together, we will come up with a wonderful solution for the St Kilda Triangle and other parts of our city, and the rejuvenation of St Kilda as a whole.

I am going away for a couple of weeks to see my family in France and recharge my batteries. We all need a break and I am looking forward to playing football with my 12 year old nephew (godson) while I am in my little Alsatian village. See you when I get back!

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