Legislation for bigger City of Perth set to be sunk as Liberals line up to cross floor on proposal

JOE SPAGNOLO POLITICAL EDITOR PERTHNOW JANUARY 24, 2015 6:00PM

PREMIER Colin Barnett’s plan to legislate a supersized City of Perth is set for the scrap heap, with members of his own party vowing to vote against it.

Mr Barnett’s former police minister, Rob Johnson, declared he would oppose the proposal when it was debated in State Parliament.

Mr Johnson said other Liberals were lining up to cross the floor, with Upper House MP Simon O’Brien speaking out against it.

In the Lower House, 21 Labor MPs, seven Nationals MPs and now Mr Johnson are set to join forces to try to defeat the Bill in the 59-member Legislative Assembly.

If just one more Liberal MP crosses the floor on this issue in the Assembly, the Bill will be defeated.

Mr Johnson said the City of Perth Act, which involved ­expanding boundaries to incl­ude major institutions such as the University of WA in a new Perth locality, robbed people of a vote on the issue.

He said he would not support “forced amalgamations”.

“It’s a question of arrogance.” Mr Johnson said. “(Mr Barnett) knows there are people within the Liberal Party who are opposed to the City of Perth Act and forced amalgamations.”

Mr O’Brien also vented his anger at the proposal, saying: “Apart from Colin (Barnett), I don’t know of anyone else on the planet who is for what is being proposed in local government.”

Mr Johnson’s plan to cross the floor is a major blow for Mr Barnett, who would not comment yesterday. He is already struggling to get enough numbers to pass his planned Act.

In the Upper House, the Liberals’ partner in government, the Nationals – who hold the balance of power – have already indicated they will not support it.

Opposition Leader Mark McGowan said: “WA Labor will not support any laws that remove the right for a local ­referendum or have vote weighting”.

Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi said: “It would be a travesty if our members in State Government did not support this. It is incumbent on each of them to understand the merit of a stronger capital city and the tangible benefits it will deliver.”

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City to expand under ‘power of persuasion’

THE power of persuasion will convince other parties to pass a bill to expand Perth’s boundaries, West Australian Premier Colin Barnett says.
It will be introduced in the first sitting week of parliament next year and will outline the city’s new boundaries under the state government’s contentious forced council amalgamations.
While the western edge of the City of Perth is yet to be finalised, the area will absorb the entire City of Vincent, the University of Western Australia, Kings Park and the Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre.
The Nationals, Labor and the Greens have voiced opposition to the mergers, which will slash the number of metropolitan councils from 30 to 16.
But the premier remains confident the plan will be supported by the time the bill is put to the upper house.
“I don’t think it will be blocked — I think it will get through,” Mr Barnett told reporters on Tuesday.
“On merit, it should pass. There may be some suggestions of minor changes and we’re amenable to that.
“Power of persuasion — just watch us.”
Originally published as City to expand under ‘power of persuasion’

New legislation would see super-size City of Perth: Colin Barnett

December 16, 2014 – 4:47PM

The City of Perth is set to more than double in size in a bid to achieve “capital city status” under proposed legislation.

Premier Colin Barnett announced on Tuesday his government had begun drafting the controversial City of Perth Act that will redraw local boundaries to include the neighbouring City of Vincent and University of WA.

The proposed act is part of a wider plan to amalgamate local councils to reduce their number from 33 to less than 20.

The WA Government plans to introduce the City of Perth Act to parliament next year, despite the Nationals pledging to oppose the amalgamation plan, and doubts over whether the Liberals have the numbers to pass it.

City of Vincent Lord Mayor John Carey has also opposed the move, saying it will strip local residents of any power to vote on the proposed Perth merger.

Mr Barnett said he was hopeful of getting the Act passed with the support of the opposition, adding the City of Vincent supported the proposal.

“The National Party has said they’re going to basically exempt themselves from any discussions about metropolitan councils – that’s probably the reality – but I would expect the Labor Party to support this,” he said.

However, Mr Barnett admitted he hadn’t spoken to Opposition Leader Mark McGowan about the proposal, and that there was no “Plan B” should it fail.

“The City of Perth supports it, the Town of Vincent supports it, the University of WA supports it, the state government – all the major institutions in the state – support it, the business community and tourism industry support it,” he told reporters.

“It will bring several features that are Perth’s great selling points under one council which makes good sense from a planning and tourism point of view.

“I think the vast majority of people in Western Australia believe we should have a proper pact to define the capital city of this state.

“It will give the city the status it should hold as Australia’s west coast capital and an increasingly important city in the Asia region.”

Local Government Minister Tony Simpson said it would be his “number one priority” to get the legislation passed next year.

The expanded boundaries will include the current City of Perth, City of Vincent, UWA Kings Park QEII Medical Centre and the new Perth Children’s Hospital.

Merger may include vote weighting

Kate Emery West Australian Newspaper
Under the State Government’s plan the whole of the City of Vincent will be merged with the City of Perth.

Mr Barnett has indicated there could be vote weighting introduced to stop residential voters in Vincent controlling the CBD.

Vincent Mayor John Carey said he was not opposed to a ward structure but he would fight any plans for vote weighting.

“We won’t accept any scenario where City of Vincent ratepayers are disadvantaged or worse off,” he said. “We believe there should be equal representation for all voters.

“We all accept that the CBD should have its own ward but that’s a very different thing to saying it should have extra representation or a gerrymander model.

“The devil is always in the detail and we are seriously concerned that again the Premier had an opportunity to say there wouldn’t be a gerrymander and we wouldn’t rule it out.”

In a statement, Nationals leader Terry Redman said the party did not support forced local government reform and indicated its position on the legislation had not changed.

“The party is not confident that the City of Perth Act would be consistent with this principle,” Mr Redman said.

“Further, I’ve seen nothing that gives me confidence that the regions won’t be next.”