Time to ‘modernise’ make-up of councils
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.