MELBOURNE City Council rejected a push for public consultation on differential rates when it knocked back a motion to charge a higher rate to gambling machine venues.
Councillor Brian Shanahan put forward a motion to give “in-principle support” to a rate on gambling venues up to 50 per cent higher than the non-residential rate, subject to 28 days of public consultation.
The extra money raised would go towards helping problem gamblers.
Cr Shanahan said he wanted a final decision before the October council elections.
“More and more councils are using differential rates, I think with good reason,” he said.
“Before we do something like this we should consult the community.”
Only Cr Shanahan, Cr Jackie Watts and Cr Cathy Oke backed the motion.
Lord mayor Robert Doyle, who has said he would not back differential rates “based on moral prejudices”, said the community consultation issue was a ‘‘red herring”.
He said the motion called on the council to back differential rates on gambling venues and then conduct consultation.
“What’s the point of consulting if you make a decision and then ask the people if they agree with it or not?” he said.
“No one would argue problem gambling isn’t harmful.”
He compared the motion to Darebin City Council’s proposal to supersize rates on junk food shops to curb diabetes.
“Where does it stop? You can’t have councils going off on a frolic based on the individual moral views of councillors,” he said.
Cr Doyle said the council had a track record of opposing the introduction of more gambling machines in the municipality.
Cr Ken Ong, who voted against the motion, said more research had to be done by council officers before the community could be consulted.
“We have to do the groundwork first … is it a popular idea or is it good policy?” he said.
Cr Watts said she did not see why the council could not consult the community on the differential rates issue.
“The Doyle bloc is voting a certain way and the rest of the councillors who are independent of view have gone another way. Why don’t we ask the community?” Cr Watts said.