Call to expedite inquiry

GREENS MLC Alison Xamon has called on the McGowan government to expedite an inquiry into Perth council.

The North Metro MP told Parliament last week residents were calling her office to complain about not having an elected council for almost two years.

“The current situation is highly dissatisfactory, and if this drags on unnecessarily it raises very grave issues around the issue of democracy at the local government level,” Ms Xamon said.

Perth’s councillors are on suspension while lawyer Anthony Power probes dysfunction at the city.

Mr Power was appointed in April last year and the inquiry was pencilled in for 12 months, but in December the deadline was extended to January 2020 because of the volume of information he had to look through.

Ms Xamon wants local government minister David Templeman to give Mr Power additional resources so he can speed things up.

• Perth lord mayor Lisa Scaffidi is currently suspended. File photo

“I think this is a really uncomfortable place for residents to have to inhabit, especially as the city is currently working through some very large community engagement projects, such as the draft city planning strategy, which is effectively going to shape the face of the city over the next 10 to 15 years,” she said.

The city is currently being run by three state-appointed commissioners; former Perth Education City boss Gaye McMath, former Rockingham council CEO Andrew Hammond, and former WA Planning Commission head Eric Lumsden.

“The commissioners have to walk a very fine line,” Ms Xamon told parliament.

“They have to remember that, of course, they have not been elected; they have nevertheless been appointed to be the final decision-makers on all council matters.

“However, these residents have not had a say in electing these commissioners, and they are not going to have a say in how and when elections are finally going to take place.

Western residents association president Anna Vanderbom represents locals from Crawley and Hollywood who were shunted into the city from Subiaco council during council amalgamations in 2016, only to be left without elected representation less than two years later.

“[The] three commissioners appear to have been simply parachuted in to activate an agenda that is a far cry from their mandate which is to temporarily represent the ratepaying electors,” Ms Vanderbom wrote to Mr Templeman in December last year.

She says it’s a convention of Australian democracy that caretakers avoid major projects or decisions.

She point out that the recently-initiated Swan River masterplanning process was a “major undertaking without the authority of an elected council”.

Mr Templeman’s office said the extension was requested by Mr Power and it was important his inquiry be given time and resources to complete its work.

by DAVID BELL

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