Time To Scrap WALGA And Start Again

Originally posted by Ian Ker on his Vincent Blogspot – 11 November 2014

Time and time again, during this chaotic and drawn-out so-called reform process, WALGA has embarrassed itself and the local government sector by not adequately reflecting the views of local Councils. We shall probably never know the extent to which this is the result of Troy Pickard’s imposing himself on the organisation, but it is clear that any supposedly representative organisation that doesn’t reflect the diversity of views held by its members is not serving their interests.

WALGA has consistently supported the amalgamation thrust without acknowledging that many of its members oppose it.

Of late, WALGA pronouncements appear to align more with the state government and keeping its process on track than on making sure the outcome is sensible and supported. It almost seems as though the apparent chastisement of the state government for providing inadequate funding for the process is a smoke-screen to draw attention away from WALGA’s sycophancy.

The WALGA model, with zones and State Council, is yet another example of systematic concentration of power at the expense of diversity and democracy.

Each Council is part of a WALGA Zone. Each zone considers an issue and ‘instructs’ its delegates to State Council, where WALGA policy is determined.

It is easy to see how this model can lead to perverse or undemocratic outcomes. In the case of local government so-called reform, the western suburbs councils and Vincent are all but one of the members of the Central Zone (the other being the City of Perth). The Central Zone, therefore, might be expected to have a large majority view against amalgamations.

Other metropolitan zones are likely to be more evenly split between potential ‘winners’ and ‘losers’.

So we can easily have a majority of zones, but a minority of councils, in favour of amalgamations.

Perhaps scrapping WALGA would be a step too far, although the City of Nedlands seems to be faring quite well without it, but it clearly needs to change and become more representative of the diversity of views held by its members.

In the case of local government reform, I wonder how long it will take for the representatives of non-metropolitan councils to catch up with the admirable and realistic position adopted by the National Party.

Protesters carry ‘Coffin of Democracy’

ABC News 25 November 2014

Prior to the hearing protesters carried what they called the “coffin of democracy” from the Concert Hall along St Georges Terrace to the front steps of the court.

Save Kalamunda Shire Action Group convenor Alan Malcolm was among the 30 protesters who accompanied the fake coffin in a mock funeral procession.

Alan Malcolm Save Kalamunda Action Group
PHOTO: Alan Malcolm from the Save Kalamunda Shire Action Group, dressed as an undertaker for today’s protest against the process of merging councils. (ABC News: Natasha Harradine)
He said the forced amalgamations were undemocratic.

“We believe the Government has sought throughout this entire process to deny people their democratic right to vote on forced amalgamations, first of all by seeking to remove the Dadour provision from the Local Government Act and then by making these forced mergers,” he said.

Mr Malcolm also criticised Mr Barnett’s move to force the mergers.

“We believe he’s burying the democratic process and this is a symbolic attempt to highlight that they are, in fact, burying democracy,” he said.

“Democracy is not something political, it’s the bedrock, the foundation of the entire political system.

“It’s about asking or demanding our democratic right to vote on something we believe we should be entitled to have a democratic vote on, that is the forced amalgamations or mergers of most of, or nearly all the cities, shires and councils within the Perth metropolitan area.”

The State Government last month rejected the Local Government Advisory Board’s recommendation for merging the five western suburbs councils of Peppermint Grove, Claremont, Nedlands, Mosman Park and Cottesloe into one.

The Premier made it clear the Government still planned to move on the western suburbs merger at some point, but refused to explain how it would achieve that.

There are provisions in the Local Government Act for ratepayers to have a vote over planned mergers through what is called as a Dadour poll.

But because some mergers were being done through a boundary adjustment rather than an amalgamation, not all residents will have a say, which sparked claims that the process is undemocratic.

Mayors predicted rates would have to increase to pay for the Government’s plans after it only allocated $60 million for the merger process.

Of that sum, $45 million was in the form of loans.

Ex-Liberal leader sounds warning in party heartland

ABC News Saturday 8 October 2014

Former WA Liberal Party state president Bill Hassell, who led the party in the 1980s in opposition, believes resistance will continue to build to the merger plans, and has questioned why the Government is using up so much “political capital for objectives which have never been clear to anyone”.

“A lot of Liberals are upset about it, particularly in Liberal heartland in the Western suburbs,” Mr Hassell said.

“It’s not smart in politics to kick your own people in the backside.”

I don’t think there’s much enthusiasm behind him in the ranks and I think that enthusiasm will be falling away because there are votes going out the door.
Former WA Liberal leader Bill Hassell
Mr Hassell has been a Nedlands councillor since 2011.

Last month, the Government rejected a recommendation to merge Nedlands with other councils but it has made clear that a western suburbs merger is still on the cards.

“We’re just blundering along with this and the only clear thing is that the Premier wants it and he’s determined to get it,” Mr Hassell said.

“I don’t think there’s much enthusiasm behind him in the ranks and I think that enthusiasm will be falling away because there are votes going out the door.”

Both the Premier and Local Government Minister Tony Simpson declined to be interviewed.

The Premier has previously accused his Nationals colleagues and Labor of being “silly” for threatening to block the new City of Perth Act, before it has even been drafted.

The Nationals have defended their position, saying it is necessary to protect regional local Governments from forced amalgamations.

Mr Lenzo said he did not think the reforms would harm the Government electorally.

“We always get opposition to change in Western Australia, don’t we?” he said.

“The bizarre thing is that once change happens, we all embrace it.

“Perth’s going to double in population in the next 20 years. We don’t have the local government sector to accommodate that.”

Local Government Reform Decision

22 October 2014
The State Government today announced its decision on reform for Perth’s metropolitan local governments.

It has foreshadowed a City of Perth Act to recognise the State capital and its intention to cut the number of local governments from 30 to 16.

Premier Colin Barnett and Local Government Minister Tony Simpson briefed metropolitan local government Mayors, Presidents and Chief Executive Officers this morning before releasing the full report prepared by the Local Government Advisory Board.

Details are available on the Metropolitan Reform website.

The State Government has announced that the following local governments will be joined by boundary adjustments:

City of Swan and Shire of Mundaring to form City of Swan
City of Bayswater and Town of Bassendean to form City of Bayswater
City of Belmont and Shire of Kalamunda to form City of Belmont
City of Subiaco and Town of Cambridge to form City of Subiaco
City of Armadale and the north of the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale to form City of Armadale
Shire of Murray and the south of the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale to form Shire of Murray
City of Gosnells and City of Canning to form City of Gosnells
A modified City of Stirling
A modified City of Melville
The report recommends six local governments be amalgamated into three:

City of South Perth and Town of Victoria Park to form City of South Park
City of Fremantle and Town of East Fremantle to form City of Fremantle
City of Kwinana and City of Cockburn to form City of Jervoise Bay
The City of Perth and the City of Vincent will come under a City of Perth Act, which will include Kings Park, the University of WA and the QEII medical centre. Once these boundaries are formalised, the State Government will take steps to create a City of Riversea based around the western suburbs councils of Claremont, Nedlands, Cottesloe, Mosman Park and Peppermint Grove.

There is little or no change to the cities of Joondalup, Rockingham and Wanneroo.