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Robert Doyle
Robert Doyle
103rd Lord Mayor of Melbourne
Some attributes
First Assumed office:

1 December 2008

Second Succeeded by:

Ted Baillieu

Third Born

20 May 1953(59) Melbourne

Other attributes
Robert Keith Bennett Doyle (born 20 May 1953) is an Australian politician and the 103rd Lord Mayor of Melbourne, elected on 30 November 2008. He was previously Member for Malvern in the Legislative Assembly of Victoria from 1992 to 2006 and Leader of the Victorian Opposition from 2002 to 2006, representing the Liberal Party of Australia.

Background

Born in Melbourne, Doyle attended secondary school in Geelong. He graduated from Monash University in 1977, and the following year began work as a teacher at Geelong College, his alma mater. In 1982, he moved back to Melbourne, working as a departmental head at Lauriston Girls' School. After three years, he again changed schools, becoming a senior administrator and English teacher at Scotch College.

State politics

At the 1992 state election, Doyle succeeded in winning Liberal preselection for the electorate of Malvern by defeating Geoff Leigh. The Liberal Party, under Jeff Kennett, won government, defeating Joan Kirner. After the election, Doyle was immediately placed on the Crime Prevention Committee, and several other taskforces, particularly in the area of health. In April 1996, Doyle was promoted to the position of Parliamentary Secretary for Human Services.

The Kennett government suffered an unexpected defeat at the 1999 election, and Kennett himself resigned soon afterwards. Kennett's deputy and Health Minister, Denis Napthine, became leader, and Doyle took Napthine's place, becoming the opposition's health spokesman.

Leader of the Victorian Opposition

By 2002, the Liberal Party was flagging in the polls, and was expected to lose the election due later that year. Doyle successfully challenged Napthine for the leadership of the state Liberal Party, claiming that the party was "facing political oblivion" if it stayed under Napthine’s leadership.

He lost the 2002 election by a large margin; the result was in fact the Liberal Party's worst-ever Victorian defeat. The party lost control of the Legislative Council for only the second time in Victorian parliamentary history, and retained only 17 of the 88 lower house seats. Also, the campaign suffered a large blow when the party's Treasurer, Robert Dean, was deemed ineligible to stand because he was not on the electoral roll.

For some time after the 2002 defeat, Doyle remained Opposition Leader, partly through the sheer shortage of potential alternative candidates for the job. However, following the decisions of Shadow Minister Victor Perton and Deputy Leader Phil Honeywood to resign, and the further resignation of Doyle's Chief of Staff Ron Wilson and his Director of Communications Rob Clancy, debate as to Doyle's future was re-ignited. Even many of Doyle's key supporters—including Upper House MPs Andrea Coote and Philip Davis, and Michael Kroger and Helen Kroger—eventually recognised that Doyle's leadership was unlikely to attract sufficient electoral support. It was also reported that Doyle's personal approval rating had dropped to 15 per cent. On 4 May 2006, Doyle announced his resignation as Opposition Leader, stating that "I have given my best—it was not enough" and that the move would give the party the "best chance of electoral success". Ted Baillieu succeeded Doyle in the post.

He officially ended his term as a Member of Parliament for the District of Malvern on 25 November 2006. On that day, the Liberals under Baillieu were again severely defeated; and as a result, Doyle publicly criticised several prominent party figures.

On 21 June 2007 the state government announced that it would appoint Doyle as the new chairman of Melbourne Health, the group that operates the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

Lord Mayor of Melbourne

When former Melbourne Lord Mayor John So announced his decision not to contest for a third consecutive term in early October 2008, Doyle emerged as a contender for the Lord Mayor Election in November 2008. Doyle told the media that he "was a better than 50-50 chance of running". On 27 October Doyle announced his candidacy, saying he could leave partisan politics aside to work with the State Government if he became Lord Mayor.Doyle selected John So's deputy between 2001 and 2004, Susan Riley, as his running mate.

On 30 November 2008, Doyle was elected Lord Mayor of Melbourne defeating then-Councillor Catherine Ng in a tightly contested election. Doyle also defeated former Melbourne Deputy Lord Mayor and Spotless heir-apparent, Peter McMullin and So's deputy between 2004 and 2008, Gary Singer. Doyle's great-great-grandfather, Robert Bennett, previously served as Lord Mayor of Melbourne (then known as simply Mayor) from 1861 to 1862.

Policies

Some of Doyle's policies as Lord Mayor to make the CBD safer and more family friendly have caused mild controversy. Doyle made an election promise to return private vehicle traffic to Swanston Street, Melbourne, which had for several decades been open to limited but mostly pedestrian traffic. The move attracted opposition from the Public Transport Users Association, Australian Greens and Bicycle Victoria. He also raised the idea of a theme park to attract children to the CBD. Doyle was also quick to vow to rid the Melbourne city centre of "bogans" and "untalented" buskers. Doyle has also openly criticized the state government's handling of Melbourne Docklands, claiming that it lacks 'social glue' and character and wanting more control over the precinct's planning expressing the desire to see more open space in the form of a large park and also Venice style canals.

In September 2010, when asked on radio about a move by suburban councils to ban smoking in some outdoor areas due to the risks of passive smoking, he said "I don't know of a case of cancer that has been caused by passive smoking."

Tensions with China over Uighur film

In August 2009, Doyle came under pressure from the Chinese Government to intervene and stop the screening of The 10 Conditions of Love at the Melbourne International Film Festival. This Australian-made film is about a prominent Uighur woman Rebiya Kadeer, who China labels a 'terrorist' and claims that she was the orchestrator of the July 2009 Ürümqi riots. Kadeer did attend the screening at the Melbourne Town Hall.

The Chinese Consul-General in Melbourne requested a meeting with the Lord Mayor to discuss the matter. Despite the protests from the Chinese Government, Doyle refused to intervene to stop the screening. Subsequently, reports emerged that China would consider terminating the sister-city relationship between Melbourne and Tianjin, one of China's four municipal-level cities and the fifth most populous city in China.

Defying the Chinese Government's threat, Doyle lodged a complaint to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, prompting the Department to warn the Chinese Embassy to conduct themselves appropriately.

Occupy Wall Street protests inquiry

Doyle was criticised for sending in riot police to evict peaceful protesters who had gathered in Melbourne's City Square and failed to comply with an eviction notice he had ordered to be issued to them, stating on ABC radio they were "a self-righteous, narcissistic, self-indulgent rabble (that) tried to capture the city." This action resulted in a range of injuries to protesters. Reports on the number of injuries vary, and while Occupy Melbourne reported "43 documented cases of police brutality" in press releases, the official report from newspapers is just one protester who was sent to hospital after being trampled on by a police horse.

Calls for a public enquiry were turned down by the Lord Mayor who was firm that neither he or Victoria Police acted inappropriately. This led to Occupy Melbourne protesters pressing legal charges against Melbourne City Council for breaching federal law which prohibits the interference of a political protest.

Occupy Melbourne protesters than bombarded Robert Doyle with requests for an inquiry online during his 2012 election campaign, to which the Lord Mayor then closed his Facebook and Twitter accounts due to "abuse and harrasment". He later re-launched his online election campaign.