A WESTERN District man wants to shake-up a city boardroom, writes XAVIER DUFF
It is shaping up as a David and Goliath battle: the Western District shearer and farm manager taking on the elite of Melbourne's business and legal community for a seat on the board of the prestigious Royal Automobile Club of Victoria.
Tom Houlihan, from Harrow, is one of three candidates for two seats in this month's RACV board elections.
Mr Houlihan's campaign has been driven by his frustration with the RACV's roadside assistance service, which he believes has deteriorated in the country. Motorists sometimes had to wait hours for a service vehicle, he said.
"The problem is, many RACV agents who had retired or sold their businesses had not been replaced," he said.
Mr Houlihan is running against current directors former Foster's chief executive Trevor O'Hoy and barrister Paula Piccinini, who are seeking re-election.
Mr Houlihan said the RACV was out of touch with rural Victoria.
"They all think Victoria ends at Melton and Dandenong," he said.
"Fees just keep going up and service just keeps going down."
The RACV's breakdown service, usually franchised to local garages, had closed in Coleraine, Balmoral, Edenhope and Stawell in recent years, Mr Houlihan said.
Harrow's nearest RACV operator was now in Horsham.
"I believe it's because no one wants to take it on because they don't want to be on call 24/7, 365 days a year," he said.
"If I am elected, I would push for an inquiry into how to improve the situation."
But the RACV denies response times have slowed. A few country agents had closed or sold their businesses but the state was still fully covered, Guy Hummerston, RACV's general manager automotive services, said.
"RACV has invested heavily in our statewide emergency roadside assistance network over the past five years, particularly in regional areas.
"We have supported our agency network and invested in automation and communication infrastructure such that service levels across country Victoria have, on average, improved significantly since 2007-08."
Mr Hummerston said more than 90 per cent of members' calls in regional Victoria were attended within 60 minutes in 2011-2012, and 97 per cent within 90 minutes.
This is Mr Houlihan's second bid for the RACV board and, while he is an outside chance, this year he does have No.1 spot on the ballot paper.
The postal ballot closes on October 11.