Friday, December 21, 2012

It's time for political transparency in Local Government

As the Quick Brown Fox highlighted in yesterday’s freebie article, partisan politics is alive and well in Local Government – and Cottesloe Mayor Kevin Morgan and (according to Mr Morgan) Premier Colin Barnett, are both very aware of it.
While that might not come as a great surprise to many of us with a political background, Candidates in Local Government elections are not compelled to disclose political affiliations at any time – prior to, during, or even after their term as Councillors.
Don’t get us wrong, we see no problem with Local Government Councillors holding membership to political organisations. In fact we think Local Government could and probably should play a more active role in training future MP’s.
However, just as it’s important for voters to be aware if an elected representative is also a property developer who might personally benefit from a planning decision before Council, we believe the State vs Cottesloe et al (‘Councils for Democracy’) stoush demonstrates that it’s equally as important for political interests to be openly declared.
We guess that neither of the major parties will be keen to commit to a regulation that compels Local Government Candidates and Councillors to publicly declare their political affiliations for obvious reasons, but given 2013 will see both a State and Local Government general election, we thought the timing was right to raise the issue.
We will post the Liberal-National list on Monday and others as they come to our attention, but if you didn’t think Local Government was party political, here’s a list of members of the Labor Party who are both Candidates for the State election and current Councillors:

Local Govt Councillors who are also ALP State Election Candidates

Karen Steele
City of Bunbury ...

It's time for political transparency in Local Government

Cottesloe Mayor / "Independent" Candidate Morgan talks partisan Local Government

Cottesloe Mayor / "Independent" Candidate Morgan talks partisan Local Government

TGO readers know that we’re very supportive of Perth’s WTV (why not click the link and become a member?) community TV channel and we’re especially avid watchers of the programs “Undercurrent” and “Shadow Boxing”.
So it was of strong interest to us when Kevin Morgan, Cottesloe Mayor and so-called “Independant” candidate for the State electorate of the same name was interviewed by Tibor Meszaros on ”Shadow Boxing” this week.
As always, Mr Meszaros’ questions seemed to reflect a kind-of bewilderment with aspects of our political system, but regardless, he managed to extract some interesting comments from the self-declared independent, including this hypothesis of the motives behind some of Premier Colin Barnett’s past activities:
Tibor Meszaros: “What motivates Colin Barnett?”
Kevin Morgan: “Well, look, Colin Barnett was the architect of the splitting up of the old City of Perth. And…”
Tibor Meszaros: “When was that?”
Kevin Morgan: “Oh, that was in the early to mid 90’s and in the mid to late 80’s, Colin as the then worker for the business lobby group had put forward a proposal to split the city of Perth in order to ensure that the pro-Liberal candidates in the CBD were no longer outnumbered by their Labor Councillors in the suburbs. And he did this by basically making the CBD a Council in its own right as the City of Perth and his plan hived off the suburban parts of the old City of Perth into new Councils such as Victoria Park, Vincent, Cambridge etc.”
As well as apparently being very clear about the motives of the Premier, Mr Morgan – Local Government Mayor of seven years – seems to also flippantly acknowledge the presence of partisan politics in Local Government.
Let’s break this down:
  • Mr Morgan is the Mayor of Cottesloe, a Local Government Authority that has had a number of high profile disagreements with the current State Government
  • Mr Morgan, as Mayor of Cottesloe, has written to all Local Governments declaring the existence and promotion of a pseudo-lobby group known as “Councils for Democracy”
  • The Mayor has declared the Town of Cottesloe to be the Secretariat of “Councils for Democracy” – using rate-payer funded staff and resources
  • Mr Morgan is concurrently running as an “Independent” candidate for the March 2013 election, standing on a platform of “Giving voice to the interests of communities and to the health and well-being of their residents so as to temper the influence of election funding on public policy
  • Mr Morgan acknowledges that partisan politics play a significant role in the deliberations of Local Government
Hmm, the Fox thinks that Mr Morgan may soon learn the difficult lesson that unlike the local versions, State election campaigns get a lot more scrutiny from people who actively look for inconsistencies and potential conflicts in a Candidates’ public comments and activities, then happily join the dots for the voting public.
We will follow this post up with more information about party politics in Local Government over the coming days, post your thoughts, comments and feedback anonymously (or on the record) below.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

McGowan's stand risks losing Greens in Riverton

In perhaps what will become one of the key make-or-break decisions of the election campaign, Labor Leader Mark McGowan has promised a Labor Government would close the perpetually controversial Regional Waste Recovery Centre (RRRC) in Canning Vale.

The decision to jump in boots and all was undoubtedly taken to win the 70 or so votes the ALP needs in the electorate of Riverton to replace sitting Liberal member Mike Nahan with Hannah Beazley, the well-liked daughter of former Federal Labor Leader Hon Kim Beazley. And given the smelly recycling plant has been the subject of strong community outrage for years (since at least 2006 when Mr McGowan was the responsible Minister) there’s no doubt the unambiguous commitment will attract at least that many new primary votes.

Read the full text for free - sign up for a 100% free account and get the rest here: McGowan's stand risks losing Greens in Riverton

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Commissioner over-reaches (again)

I don’t know what it is about the title “Commissioner”, but it’s not only the Police Commissioner causing headaches for the Government by running his own agenda in the media.

Enter Michelle Scott, the Commissioner for Children and Young People (CCYP).

The QBF has some history with Ms Scott, who when I was Chief of Staff (CoS) to the new Minister for Mental Health, decided to ‘inform’ the Minister that she was about to embark on a witch hunt, oops, inquiry called “Inquiry into the inadequacies of Western Australia’s mental health facilities for Children and Young People.”
Now, the role of CoS isn’t defined anywhere, but I always considered it my job to protect the reputation and capacity of Government and the Minister by whom I was employed.

Needless to say, Ms Scott and I had a number of robust discussion about the nuances in the title of her inquiry and while the final report was called something a little less emotive, the Commissioner was fiercely protective of her “Independent” status and made no bones about the fact that my vigorous encouragement for her to think about the fact that the Government at that time hadn’t event been able to find an office for its nation-leading Mental Health Commission was neither appropriate or effective.

More at Commissioner over-reaches (again)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Q3 Public Sector expenses increase 4% despite "efficiency dividends"

This media statement published under the name of Treasurer Troy Buswell yesterday gave an overview of the September quarterly results.

The first half of the media statement is heavily focused on the lower revenue for the quarter and the corresponding $255 million reduction to the surplus over the same period last year. Predictably, among the explanations offered for these results were four mentions of changes to the Commonwealth GST distribution and two mentions of lower mining royalties.

Interestingly, the media team also decided to justify an upbeat view with this line that will surely draw a critical response from the CCI:

“Growth in payroll tax collections underlines ongoing strength of the economy“

Anyway, there’s also a cursory...

More at Q3 Public Sector expenses increase 4% despite "efficiency dividends"