Perth elections called

FOUR suspended Perth councillors will have their positions immediately “vacated” and fresh elections have been set for a new council and lord mayor on October 17 this year.

Councillors Steve Hasluck, James Limnios, Lexi Barton and Reece Harley had terms that expired on October 16, 2021, but following another extension to the long-delayed inquiry, their suspensions would have dragged on past the two-year limit allowed under the local government act.

That has forced local government minister David Templeman to declare their offices vacant, using a provision in the act that gives him that power if half the council positions are vacant. Former lord mayor Lisa Scaffidi and the remaining four councillors’ terms had already expired.

The inquiry was originally scheduled to wind up in May 2019, and the latest delay was very quietly announced in an obscure corner of the inquiry’s website in December.

Redacting

It was purportedly due to the “volume and depth of the issues under consideration”, however a letter leaked to 6PR revealed that poor redacting meant people receiving copies of the report could see adverse findings against others.

“It is not appropriate for you to be made aware of adverse findings which may be made against other persons and in which your client has no interest, when those affected persons have not yet had the opportunity to make submissions on those redacted parts and in doing so be afforded procedural fairness,” the leaked letter said.

A couple of candidates have announced early interest.

Di Bain missed a council seat by just 279 votes in 2017 and she says she’s mulling over a run for either lord mayor or councillor – or maybe both.

The former journalist and PR agent’s profile has been building since then. She was appointed a commissioner of Tourism WA last year and now chairs Activate Perth.

Activate Perth is a city advocacy group set up after Labor MP John Carey’s community consultation summit. It’s been bestowed with $200,000 funding from the McGowan government this year to help fill empty CBD tenancies.

“October’s still a long way away in terms of life planning, but I’m very interested in making a civic contribution,” Ms Bain told the Voice.

“Being the chair of Activate Perth and a commissioner of Tourism WA, I’m very familiar with the issues at the the core of the city and I will be interested in putting my hand up.”

While Ms Bain called us directly, Steve Hasluck has spread the news that he’ll run for council again.

“Cr Hasluck was elected in October 2018 just four months before the Perth city council was suspended”, his release noted. That’s pretty close (the election was October 2017).

In evidence to the inquiry the property manager described the council’s culture as toxic and dysfunctional, and unlike any workplace he’d been at.

The minister’s clean sweep “means a fresh start for the City of Perth and is the circuit breaker that was needed to put the interests of ratepayers first”, he said late last week.

“I will work hard to ensure that the new council acts in the professional and united manner expected of us by ratepayers, residents and stakeholders.”

Reece Harley, who often butted heads with the former lord mayor, said he hadn’t made any decisions about October yet but he does have great confidence in the new CEO and senior management.

Presenter and columnist Basil Zempilas has expressed an interest in running for mayor, as has architect Sandy Anghie.

Because 2020 isn’t a standard election year, the terms for new councillors will be split between one and three years depending on how many votes they poll, so they can be brought back in line with other councils next year.

by DAVID BELL

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