Time to ‘mod­ernise’ make-up of coun­cils

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News - War­ren Hately

La­bor’s push for greater di­ver­sity on lo­cal govern­ment coun­cils has been ex­posed as a pub­lic re­la­tions exer­cise, with the State Govern­ment un­able to point to how it can in­crease di­ver­sity in coun­cil elec­tions.

As Shire of Au­gusta-Mar­garet River opened for nom­i­na­tions last month, Lo­cal Govern­ment Min­is­ter David Tem­ple­man out­lined plans for a re­view of the Lo­cal Govern­ment Act, in­clud­ing “Mak­ing it eas­ier for women, Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple, peo­ple from cul­tur­ally and lin­guis­ti­cally di­verse back­grounds and young peo­ple to stand for elec­tion”.

The news fol­lowed a ma­ligned Univer­sity of WA re­port crit­i­cis­ing the pre­dom­i­nance of older “white” men on coun­cils.

This week, Mr Tem­ple­man said he was “dis­mayed” at the lack of fe­male can­di­dates for coun­cil elec­tions and re­ports of on­line bul­ly­ing and ha­rass­ment in other lo­cal­i­ties. Pressed for de­tails about how fair­ness would be en­forced, Mr Tem­ple­man’s of­fice said the re­view would iden­tify what “types of mech­a­nisms” were avail­able.

“Ba­si­cally, us­ing tech­nol­ogy to in­tro­duce more flex­i­bil­ity, recog­nis­ing that peo­ple have kids at school (so can’t do meet­ings at 4pm on a week­day) and that there are dou­ble-in­come fam­i­lies (again, can’t do meet­ings dur­ing 9-5 hours), that peo­ple have family com­mit­ments (could Skype in to a meet­ing or dial in).”

The re­view would con­sider “things to make it eas­ier for peo­ple who have other things go­ing on in their life”.

“The in­ten­tion is not to dis­ad­van­tage cur­rent mem­bers, rather to mod­ernise the Act so that it is eas­ier for peo­ple to par­tic­i­pate,” Mr Tem­ple­man said. A quick poll of lo­cal can­di­dates showed some were sur­prised by un­der­valu­ing of re­tirees vol­un­teer­ing time in pub­lic of­fice. Shire pres­i­dent and can­di­date Ian Earl said the coun­cil al­ready had “a very di­verse group of coun­cil­lors”.

New­comer can­di­date Naomi God­den said she would like to see more young peo­ple, women, “peo­ple of colour” and dis­abled peo­ple elected. “My pref­er­ence is that older white male can­di­dates share their knowl­edge and skills through men­tor­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers, rather than nom­i­nat­ing for coun­cil,” she said.

Other mea­sures Dr God­den backed in­cluded mak­ing coun­cil­lor re­spon­si­bil­i­ties more flex­i­ble “and ban­ning prop­erty de­vel­op­ers from be­com­ing lo­cal coun­cil­lors”.

Pub­lic comment would be sought in early 2018.

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