With all the hoo har over the amalgamation since the weekend I have had a stream of people sending my articles and stories about have you seen this or that, quick listen to 6PR or the ABC radio this.
Firstly to all those who send me links and info thank you, I appreciate it, one for the time you take to send it but also it makes me look at things from different points of view, which is always good in a democracy, so thank you.
One of the articles was a comment piece on the WAtoday site. It was an article by Larry Graham a once Labour MP in the Pilbara, then independent. He makes some very interesting analogizes on both local government and the poll we have just had in some suburbs. I have cut and pasted a piece of it so you get his critique of the system.
“Council costs increase because councillors, mayors and shire presidents are now paid professional politicians and neither their imposed pay and allowances, nor the executive salary packages of their CEOs and staff reflect any capability of a shire to afford them.
The local government structures designed in the century before last compound the increases in rates and spiraling red tape and make the case for change powerful.
And at the same as the cost of local government increases, state bureaucracies are encroaching on their responsibilities.
Councils no longer do traffic patrols to enforce road rules; centralist planning bodies and administrative tribunals have had their powers increased over zoning and developments. National building codes, standards and regulations have also reduced council’s regulatory power and workloads.
Government needs to revisit local government reform on a much wider focus than some magical number of metropolitan councils, the cost, role, function, powers and responsibilities of these intrusive but unaccountable local bureaucracies are of far greater importance to ratepayers than boundaries are.
It is clear that if our system of local government is to reclaim some legitimacy, it needs compulsory voting, the return of all its planning powers, forced amalgamations and a genuine focus on accountability to its electors.
In Alice In Wonderland, the Mad Hatter said:
“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t.”
Claiming public legitimacy without a commensurate level of voter support clearly fits the Mad Hatter’s world view.
I think the one critical point I have made many times myself and I believe the reform board also recommended to the minister office of DLG, is that voting in local elections should be compulsory. This one line ….”It is clear that if our system of local government is to reclaim some legitimacy, it needs compulsory voting, the return of all its planning powers, forced amalgamations and a genuine focus on accountability to its electors.” Clearly sums up Fremantle and quite likely the reason East Freo residents voted against the amalgamation with Fremantle was the fear of joining our Mad Hatters Tea Party.
Now I have heard people speak about elected members spruiking their mandate from the last election. With only approx. 35% of the eligible electorate voting, which is laughable, their representations of speaking for the silent majority, believable? I’m sure I have heard Mayor Brad talk about his mandate from the last election, what was his slogan “let’s finish what we started”?
Imagine for a second a council where compulsory voting took place. Does anyone believe that Fremantle (elected members) council would exist in its current form, imagine a council free of ideology, just true representation? A song worthy of a certain John.
What we do have looks like it may be the Mad Hatters Tea Party?