HAVE A DRINK, PM . . . SPRITE, OR SARS?

Audio … Cr Colomb proposes, Cr Celi disposes.

In this charmed vale of pinots noir and gris – even grigio, Bandicoot is informed – as well as cab sav, and the whole panoply of other reds and whites, the shire is being urged officially to eschew alcohol.

Throw into this proposed ban the peninsula’s boutique brewers, as well as purveyors of cider and grappa, if any of this explosive Italian concoction is available south of the Frankston Line.

The proposer of this startling prohibition is the usually convivial Cr Bev Colomb, who argues that ratepayers’ funds should not be used to slake the thirst of either councillors, staff or official guests of the shire, from the state governor, the Hon Linda Dessau AM, (notorious recently for her consumption of very pricey champers at a fancy London caff) down to we common ratepayers.

So, in this charmed vale &c &c, a renowned Victorian wine region, it’s BYO unless you’re satisfied with something soft in a plastic bottle or orange juice.

This makes sense, in a contrarian sort of way. Bandicoot feels that official shire invitations to the likes of la Dessau and other wine bibbers should include the caution that they should come early so as to visit an officially sponsored winery for a bottle or two to haul out at the function.

The invite could include the wineries, their locations and their price lists, so no one gets caught short when discovering the startlingly prohibitive prices that apply at some cellar doors.

That means the shire can recommend top grog joints to the top level of visiting society, enabling the shire then to conduct a study on where the stingy blighters head for their bottle – thinking to themselves, This must be a practical joke; surely they can’t be serious!

But indeed Cr Colomb is serious. She checked at the 22 August meeting that the as-yet unpassed councillor expenditure policy would not include reimbursement for such items known colloquially as singing syrup, neck oil and the like, which contained so much as a scintilla of “organic compounds whose molecule contains one or more hydroxyl groups attached to a carbon atom”.

Bandicoot has sworn off the stuff until he knows what a “hydroxyl group” is.

A gloomy group of councillors heard that the proposed ban included alcohol “before, during or after council meetings”. The policy is significantly silent on “after”, when councillors occasionally – no, make that “often” – adjourn to the councillors lounge post-meeting for a relaxing debrief.

Cr Colomb sought an amendment to the expenditure policy that would make the council “totally alcohol-free. Please consider it, Cr Celi,” she asked the grim-faced mover of the agenda item.

“I think it can be quite clear,” intoned the Briars rechabite representative, “[That there will be] no provision of alcohol on council property to councillors – I’m looking for some assistance with wording … I’m just prohibiting ratepayers paying [for alcohol].”

I actually can’t support that one,” responded mover Celi tartly, suggesting it could be heard as a separate amendment.

Discussion that followed was virtually inaudible due to the extremely poor quality of the council’s mobile recording equipment (the meeting was at Mornington) and councillors’ disinclination to use their microphones when matters as vital as alcohol deprivation are being debated.

But, since the expenditure policy did not pass, it was of no matter. Bandicoot noted, however, that Cr Colomb, apparently intent on preventing ratepayers’ money being spent on councillor indulgences such as alcohol, had no issue supporting a 62.5% rise on ratepayers’ funds set aside for councillor attendance at conferences, seminars and training.

And, of course, on top of this councillors can claim entertainment of $1000 a year, with a further $1000 for a mayoral year.

So long, Bandicoot imagines, as no expenses at all are claimed for, er, alcoholic drinks.