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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POLL DAY 7th February 2015 – IS IT GOING TO BE VIC PARK OR SOUTH PARK?

From “The Maxwell Fish & Chip Wrapper” January 2015 Written by Victoria Park Councillor Vince Maxwell

This is a rare and unusual event and it was only through the hard work by a few residents of the Town that has made it possible for you to have a say. The outcome of this poll is binding on the State Government under the Local Government Act. Many people who live in the Town have migrated from countries where democracy either doesn’t exist or is abused by those in power. Democracy is a fragile thing and needs to be protected. This has been demonstrated in the past where our predecessors were prepared to fight and some gave their lives to ensure we have the freedom we enjoy today – We cannot take it for granted – let our governments at all levels know that we want to maintain our democratic rights by participating in this poll. Politics is the science of living together – although some let the power and responsibility go to their heads, it is no reason for us to sit idly by. We must ensure that our democracy remains strong and not allow any one person on a power trip take it away from us. The ballot package that you have received from the Australian Electoral Commission contains an information sheet that lists the for and against arguments for an amalgamation. This information was provided by the Local Government Advisory Board (LGAB). Unfortunately the arguments put forward are very simplistic opinions that are not supported by evidence.

One argument is that the Town will be more sustainable – however the WA treasuries modelling that was used by the LGAB demonstrates the opposite. The Treasuries own figures show that the Towns current rating of 70, which incidentally is the Ministers preferred minimum level, will drop to 68 upon amalgamation with South Perth. In the future a modest improvement is shown but, like forecasting the weather, the further into the future you look the less accurate the prediction. Conclusion: this claim is unsubstantiated.

Another argument is that a larger local government can employ more expensive staff but is that what we need? The CEO of Victoria Park already earns in excess of $240,000 and senior staff receive over $170,000. Larger Councils automatically pay these staff at a higher rate as this is determined by the State salaries and remuneration tribunal – it is not a free market. The pay scales are set and there is minimal range within each band to pay someone more or less to match their capability. The range is determined by the size of the Local Government. For example larger Councils like Canning and Wanneroo have almost twice as many senior staff and the total Senior staff wages bill is almost double indicating that little will be saved by forming a larger Council. No cost benefit analysis has been done by the State Government or the Town. We are sailing into unknown territory.

Professor of economics and Director of the UNE Centre for Local Government, Brian Dollery, in correspondence with me stated that he agreed with my calculation of the likely costs and concluded by writing “It seems to me that many Perth councils are sleepwalking towards big financial problems stemming from amalgamation.” Former secretary to the NSW Treasury, Professor Percy Allan (AM), in a presentation in October to the Committee for economic development of Australia (CEDA) reported that Local Governments in Australia were quite large by world standards averaging more than 40,000 residents compared to USA 7,981 and the European Union 5,693. Post amalgamation a number of Perth Councils will be over 100,000 residents! 12.5 times the average in USA & 17.6 times the EU! His report continues ….Yet, researchers both here and abroad have found that larger councils do not exhibit lower unit costs of servicing than smaller ones. It has been found that some council functions are done best on a large scale while other tasks are performed better on a small scale. “Smaller units are the most democratic and participative, and also the most efficient.”

Amalgamations in every other jurisdiction in Australia have resulted in higher rates, reduced services, and less representation. If for some reason it was to be different in Perth then the Government has failed to show how. The State government has not provided any financial modelling.

City of Perth Act to create a great capital for WA

Premier and Minister’s Media Statement

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

​City of Perth Act to be drafted as part of metropolitan local government reform
Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane have their own Acts of Parliament
Consultation with key stakeholders in the new year.

The State Government will draft a City of Perth Act which will establish Perth as the city’s pre-eminent council, with legislation due for introduction into State Parliament early next year.

Premier Colin Barnett said consultation with relevant parties would begin in the new year, resulting in an Act to recognise Perth as the State’s capital city and acknowledge its central role in tourism and economic development.

“Given the Government’s investment in revitalising Perth with investments such as Elizabeth Quay, the Perth City Link and Riverside, it’s timely for the City of Perth to have this special recognition,” Mr Barnett said.

“The city is the centre of business and retail activity and is the pre-eminent entertainment precinct in the State. This Act will recognise the need for it to be treated differently from other residential councils.”

The Act will also outline the City of Perth’s expanded boundaries, which will take in all of the City of Perth and the City of Vincent plus The University of Western Australia, Kings Park, the Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre and the new Perth Children’s Hospital.

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

“Cabinet has this week approved the drafting of the Act which will lay the foundations for building a great capital. A bigger and stronger City of Perth will be better equipped to respond to the demands of a growing State – and better represent WA on the world stage.

“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 the Act was a high priority for the State Government.

The Act will be drafted in consultation with both the City of Perth and the current City of Vincent as well as relevant business, tourism and ratepayer associations.

Mr Simpson said the State Government’s plan for metropolitan local government reform was on track with reforms being progressively put in place.

Fact File
The new Act would operate in conjunction with the Local Government Act 1995
For more information, visit http://metroreform.dlg.wa.gov.au
Premier’s office – 6552 5000
Local Government Minister’s office – 6552 6600

Parliamentary Motion: Local Government Amalgamations

The Shadow Minister for Local Government, David Templeman, sent the following to CEOs,   Mayors, Presidents and Elected Members,

On Wednesday 26 November 2014, I moved the following motion:
That this house –
(a) Condemns the Premier and the Minister for Local Government for allowing, through its forced amalgamations process, some communities in the metropolitan area an opportunity to have a poll under the Dadour provisions in the Local Government Act 1995 about their local council’s future, while others have not been given that democratic right; and
(b) Further, supports all affected communities having a right to a poll on their council’s future.

Extract from Hansard

[ASSEMBLY — Wednesday, 26 November 2014] p8879b-8894a

Mr David Templeman; Mrs Michelle Roberts; Mr Dave Kelly; Mr Bill Johnston; Mr Tony Simpson

[1] LOCAL GOVERNMENT — AMALGAMATIONS — POLL PROVISIONS

Motion MR D.A. TEMPLEMAN (Mandurah) [5.05 pm]: I move — That this house — (a) condemns the Premier and the Minister for Local Government for allowing, through its forced amalgamation process, some communities in the metropolitan area an opportunity to have a poll under the Dadour provisions in the Local Government Act 1995 about their local council’s future, while others have not been given that democratic right; and (b) further, supports all affected communities having a right to a poll on their council’s future.

Mr D.A. TEMPLEMAN: This house has debated numerous motions about the government’s forced amalgamation process in the metropolitan area. It has been an elongated, mishmash of goalpost changing, deceitful tactics and deceitful actions by the government and the minister. It has been a flawed process. No economic business case or model has been presented to support its purpose and it is based on a broken promise to the people of Western Australia prior to the March 2013 election.

The ACTING SPEAKER: Excuse me, member. I just need to direct you that you cannot call a minister of the Crown deceitful. You asserted that. I am just warning you, that is all.

Mr D.A. TEMPLEMAN: I will amend that to a deceitful government. We know the history of this process, we have gone through it on numerous occasions and I am not going to go through it again. A number of weeks ago, the Local Government Advisory Board made recommendations to the Minister for Local Government about what local government should look like post-2015. The board recommended that a range of councils either merge or dissolve and split into other entities through amalgamation or boundary changes. The minister indicated that he has accepted all but two of the board’s recommendations. We have been left with some communities in the metropolitan area affected by the changes to local government that will have an opportunity to take part in a poll through the Dadour provisions of the Local Government Act, which are triggered and enacted when certain things occur. The Dadour provisions were inserted into the act some decades ago —

Mr A.J. Simpson: It was in 1974.

Mr D.A. TEMPLEMAN: Sorry—in 1974. The minister and Premier argued in previous debates that the Dadour provisions are undemocratic. They have stated that on a number of occasions. Continue reading