Protest fails

A SUPREME court appeal by local councils to prevent amalgamations has completely fizzled, with chief justice Wayne Martin swiftly dismissing all four points of the plaintiffs’ arguments.

A morning of arguments saw Mr Martin return from lunch with a near-instant discounting of the councils’ case.

Lawyer Chris Shanahan had argued that WA local government advisory board chair Mel Congertoon was biased, as he’d declared support for the government in emails.

But Mr Martin said there was no bias in the mind of a reasonable person and dismissed the argument.

Mr Shanahan had also argued that WA local government minister Tony Simpson had engineered some mergers so they wouldn’t give locals the right to vote to oppose them via the Dadour amendment.

But Mr Martin pointed out that claim didn’t apply to any of the councils Mr Shanahan was representing, and the court wasn’t there to entertain “busybodies” getting into other people’s business.

The order of submissions was also challenged, but not deemed grounds to call the whole thing off.

Former Vincent councillor Ian Ker—who’d delved deep into his own pocket to fund the case along with a handful of councils—says “the issue of the legitimacy of the minister’s proposals has not been resolved” despite the findings.

He said the action had cost him and the councils involved “a lot of money” and no-one was sure where to go from here.
Vincent city council’s fate isn’t to be decided by an ordinary merger process, but instead by a special act of parliament, the “City of Perth Act” which will squish it together with Perth.

But chatter is increasing that the government may be losing its resolve, and the merger may not happen. In Vincent council chambers, the talk has gone from “when” the council gets merged to “if”, a significant change over a month ago.

by DAVID BELL

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