Vote weighting? Don’t you worry about that!
PREMIER Colin Barnett is refusing to rule out vote-weighting as part of his decision to merge the cities of Perth and Vincent.
The move—likened to a “Bjelke-Petersen Queensland-style gerrymander”—would effectively give voters in the existing City of Perth more voting power than people now in Vincent.
“Vincent residents are not second-class citizens,” says a furious Vincent mayor John Carey, who’d pushed hard for a Perth-Vincent merger.
“Whatever side of the debate you’re on—you might support a split from Vincent, you might support Vincent as is—surely everyone agrees on one basic principle, and that is every ratepayer should enjoy the same rights as their neighbour.”
The premier told the ABC early in the week, “you would not want residential voters to be able to control the CBD”.
One option would be to give Perth CBD businesses more voting power than residents in the enlarged capital’s suburbs. This would also likely lead to a city council more focussed on CBD concerns and less on the issues affecting its new hinterlands, such as Leederville, Highgate and North Perth.
To effect the merger the premier proposes a “City of Perth Act”. Mr Carey says the move means the government can bypass the Dadour Amendment, which would have allowed Vincent residents the option of vetoing a merger.
“It’s groundhog day, we’re back to square one,” he sighed. “We’re back to at last another year of trying to get the best deal for residents, and it’s an uncertain future with a premier that won’t rule out vote-weighting, which disadvantages Vincent.”
Former Vincent councillor Ian Ker, who challenged the mergers in court, suspects the City of Perth Act is because Mr Barnett is fearful “the supreme court will declare the whole process invalid”.
“He will put a Bjelke-Petersen Queensland-style gerrymander in place to disenfranchise the people of Vincent.”
Mr Ker holds out hope the bill will be opposed in parliament, “and he has already had a defeat in the upper house on forced amalgamations”.
He says “it is time to remind Eleni Evangel, MLA for Perth, that her electorate includes the City of Vincent as well as the City of Perth.
“It is time to remind her that two-thirds of her electors are Vincent residents.
“The people of Vincent will not forgive her at the 2017 election if she doesn’t vote against Barnett’s latest denial of democracy, or better still persuade him to give up his latest imperial delusion.”
by DAVID BELL