By Jessica Strutt
Posted yesterday at 6:44pm Wed 19 Nov 2014, 6:44pm
Hundreds of people have gathered to protest council amalgamations at parliament house this evening.
The Liberals and the Nationals in Western Australia appear to be a step closer to healing their rift over council mergers.
Cabinet has ticked off on new legislation that will encourage regional local governments to share resources and services, something the Nationals have been pushing for some time.
The issue of council mergers has long caused tension between the Liberals and Nationals, who are in an alliance in Government together.
The Nationals have already withdrawn their support for Government plans to almost halve the number of metropolitan councils after they became concerned country councils would be next on the chopping board.
The three Nationals ministers even sat out of recent Cabinet discussions on new metropolitan council boundaries.
But now it appears the Liberals are extending an olive branch and have agreed to introduce the legislation the Nationals have long been lobbying for.
It is understood it was approved by Cabinet on Monday.
The ABC understands the legislation will closely mirror a private member’s bill that Nationals MP Shane Love introduced into Parliament in June.
At the time it was introduced, Nationals leader Terry Redman said Local Government Minister Tony Simpson had refused to bring their new legislation in as a Government bill.
The ABC has been told the new Government legislation will allow two or more local governments to establish a subsidiary to jointly undertake and deliver a variety of works and service activities.
It is not expected to expressly protect regional shires from forced mergers.
Neither Liberal nor Nationals MPs have yet been briefed on the full details of the new legislation.
It is expected to go before the Liberal party room next week before being introduced to Parliament.
Political analyst Peter Kennedy said Labor had been able to capitalise on the tension in the alliance over mergers, and the move could be about trying to settle differences before the 2017 state election.
“I think the Liberal Party would be very keen to diffuse the issue over amalgamation, especially in country areas, well in advance of the next election,” he said.
“The Nationals are a key part of the alliance and although they have a certain degree of independence, compared to previous years, their vote is very important so the Government, and particularly Mr Barnett, would be very keen to keep them on side.”