Lest we forget

Missed deadline almost cancels Anzac march

A FORGOTTEN application form and a lost email threatened to scupper next April’s Anzac Day parade, but a last-minute decision by Perth council to cough up funding will see it go ahead.

The ad-hoc approval sparked concerns from councillor Rebecca Gordon that Perth was reverting to the kind of on-the-fly decisions that’d seen the former council lineup sharply criticised in the state government’s 2020 inquiry. 

Despite her concerns the vote was still unanimous to handover $98,000 in cash and $51,600 worth of in-house services to the RSLWA without a proper application and the usual vetting process.

For years the RSLWA has relied on Perth council funding for its Anzac Day events, with the cost of mandatory vehicle barriers and other expenses steadily rising and putting pressure on their finances.

But this year the RSLWA didn’t apply in time. 

The council had two rounds of events sponsorship this year from a $1 million pot; one in July and one in November. 

Would-be event holders had their exhaustive multi-page applications pored over in great detail by a three-person panel before being sent to councillors for a decision. 

The council even conducted background credit checks on at least one applicant to ensure they were solid operators. 

At the final council meeting for 2022 a staff member explained the RSLWA’s absence from the list of applicants to councillors: “The applicants were contacted via email 

and it appears that there was some issue at their end, so an application was not received” from RSLWA.

RSLWA sent a later letter to the council in early December pleading for $98,400 in cash, plus $51,600 in waived costs and in-kind services. They needed a decision fast to get planning.

The last-minute informal application rang alarm bells for Cr Gordon. 

“It’s really poor governance to be given an agenda item two-and-a-half hours before a meeting when we’ve got a 1500-page agenda, and it’s a high-risk area,” Cr Gordon said.

“The City of Perth has come under criticism for grants and sponsorship before, and we’re proposing to give $140,000 on the back of a half-page letter?

“I’m supportive of the organisation, but I just think… it just makes a mockery of our normal processes. Why do we bother going through applications [and] having an assessment panel?

“I’d like to move that we defer it so they can have time to submit the proper documentation and we can consider it at the next ordinary council meeting.”

But with the next meeting not until February councillors were told the matter couldn’t wait, and no one seconded Cr Gordon’s deferral. 

CEO Michelle Reynolds told them: “The timing is very regrettable… but they need to now enter into agreements with some of their providers, so they themselves can’t afford to take too much time.”

Lord mayor Basil Zempilas said while the deal was less than ideal, at least the parade would go ahead.

“I heard what Cr Gordon said about risk – but in my view the greater risk in fact would be to us as an organisation not to be supportive of the Anzac Day march in 2023,” he said.

There’s no money in the events bucket left so councillors unanimously voted to pull the money out of the operating budget’s surplus. 

by DAVID BELL

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