Amalgamation and the Western Suburbs

The dangers from Council Amalgamation are complex and interrelated.   At the highest level there is the role of local governments and their constitutional status, at the lowest level is the myriad of ways we relate to them and our suburb.   As with any complex matter it’s valuable to consider the elements of the problem separately.

Constitution

The WA Constitution says that the legislature (Parliament; by passing law) has the power to constitute local governments.   However, despite the Liberal Party having a majority in both houses, Parliament has refused to consider changes to the law sought by the Barnett Government that would allow it to re-constitute metropolitan local governments.

The Government of the day answers to the people, as do local governments, it is very significant for a WA Government to attempt to circumvent the law.   Respect for the law and the ultimate sovereignty of the people is a fundamental, it should be beyond question.

 Political System

Local government is closest to the people and thus plays an important role in fostering engagement with the broader political system.   People entering politics frequently begin by serving in local government where they learn procedures and gain relevant skills.   This factor is particularly relevant now because both Liberals and Labor have experienced decades of falling memberships leaving them collectively with less than one half of one percent of Australians as members.   This is inadequate as a talent pool for policy formulation or candidate selection.   It is also about a tenth of the number needed to be credibly representative.

Justification

It is a responsibility of Cabinet to scrutinise the actions of government and this means doing the due diligence on planning. Not only has the Government failed to economically justify, it has refused to fund the proposed changes and has ignored expert assessment of similar ideologically driven amalgamations done in other states. Assessments have shown that amalgamations that are not sought by locals fail to meet objectives and increase rather than decrease costs.

Misrepresentation

Before the last election Mr Barnett promised there would be no forced amalgamations.   Minister Simpson promised the Government would fund almalgamations if they were sought.   Further, after the state elections councils were misled into believing that they could be legally forced to amalgamate.

Before the last election the Government commissioned a report from professors Robson and Tannock. This report was claimed by the Minister for Local Government to justify a reduction in councils but, in fact, the terms of reference dictated by the Government were couched only to show how a reduction could be achieved.  The financial viability of amalgamations of councils was not addressed in the Robson Report.

Sense of place and belonging

At the top of the list of considerations that need to be taken into account under the law in relation to proposals to change the borders of a local government is community of interest. The law is common sense because it is self evident that people feel a sense of belonging and perhaps pride about where they live.   To many, probably most, where they live is a major part of their identity. It is part of what people expect to be fostered by their government.

Small tightly knit local communities are a source of strength to a nation, just  like families and sporting teams. Even if an economic argument could be made for the amalgamations the Government wants, forcing them on people is a gross miscalculation on the place of a government to it’s master, the people.

 

 

 

 

WSA Public Forum – Subiaco 26 November 2012 – Opening remarks by Colin Latchem

Opening remarks by Colin Latchem

As Chairman of the Western Suburbs Alliance Inc or WSA, I’m pleased to welcome you all to tonight’s forum. It’s gratifying to see so many of you taking the trouble to come and take part in this event.

WSA was formed by members of community groups in Claremont, Cottesloe, Mosman Park, Peppermint Grove, Nedlands and Subiaco. Its launch was marked by the publication of a letter in the POST newspaper of July 1, 2012. Signed by 38 mayors, former mayors, councillors and other high-profile citizens, this expressed concerns about the new state planning laws which give dictatorial powers to the Minister for Planning. Since then our membership and donations to the cause have grown dramatically. We have also received supportive calls from all over the metropolitan area and beyond. As you will hear tonight, we are also faced with forcible amalgamation of our councils. This is all part of the centralization of control by the Barnett government and erosion of our democratic rights. Continue reading

WSA Public Forum 26 November 2012 – a presentation by Heather Henderson

A presentation by Mayor Heather Henderson 

The recently release  of the final report from the Metropolitan Local Government Review Panel foreshadows the most significant changes we have seen in the history of Western Australian local government.

One of the recommendations in the report, which poses a real and immediate threat to our communities is the amalgamation of the seven western suburbs local governments.

The western suburbs have undoubtedly been a target for amalgamations since the state government began its reform agenda about four years ago. Continue reading

WSA Public Forum 26 November 2012 – a presentation by Ron Norris

Local Government Reform

Written by Ron Norris, Mayor of the Town of Mosman Park

My contribution on the Local Government reform issue is to show that the process has been flawed from the start and bring to your attention to the waste of money and resources which the State Government has allowed to happen. We started the Reform journey nearly 3 years ago and virtually nothing has been achieved. The only response we have received from the Government have been bullying threats – agree to amalgamate or we’ll do it for you. And yet no evidence has been provided to demonstrate this massive dislocation to Local Government is desired by the Ratepayers or that it will deliver any tangible benefit.

Apart from Peppermint Grove I’m not aware of one council which is opposed to the so called “reform process”. All of us, including Peppermint Grove, willingly participated in the Regional Transition Grouping (RTG) process which Minister Castrilli initiated in February 2009. Similarly, we all made submissions to the Robson panel 12 months ago. Unfortunately, as far as the western suburbs are concerned, Robson wasn’t listening.

The Robson Panel has now given the Government its Final Report. I’ll come back to that Report later but the Government now expects us to make a submission on the Final Report. To add insult to injury, they won’t consider our submissions until after the State Election in March. And we now learn that these public submissions, unlike the ones we made earlier, won’t be published. We’re told that “publishing comments may prevent people from providing their true opinions”. So why should we bother to do anything? Continue reading