PERTH CAN BE ONE OF THE GREAT­EST CITIES IN THE WORLD

And now is the time to make it hap­pen

The West Australian - - FRONT PAGE - SHAN­NON HAMP­TON

Basil Zem­pi­las has de­clared his reign as Perth’s new Lord Mayor as a “once-in-a-gen­er­a­tion op­por­tu­nity for a fresh start” for the cap­i­tal city’s coun­cil af­ter years of tur­moil.

The high-pro­file me­dia per­son­al­ity will to­day be sworn in at Gov­ern­ment House along­side eight fresh coun­cil­lors.

“This is a new start,” Mr Zem­pi­las said. He added that in three years, he also hoped there would be a great vi­brancy to the city.

Basil Zem­pi­las has de­clared his reign as Perth’s new Lord Mayor is a “once in a gen­er­a­tion op­por­tu­nity for a fresh start” for the cap­i­tal city’s coun­cil af­ter years of tur­moil.

The high-pro­file me­dia per­son­al­ity will to­day be sworn in at a cer­e­mony at Gov­ern­ment House along­side eight fresh coun­cil­lors, mark­ing a new dawn for the city af­ter al­most three years with­out lead­er­ship.

The 49-year-old fa­ther of three was vic­to­ri­ous in what was a tightly con­tested race with for­mer ABC jour­nal­ist Di Bain on Sat­ur­day night, win­ning with 1855 votes to Ms Bain’s 1571. He said hold­ing the cov­eted po­si­tion was some­thing he had “thought about . . . for about 20 years” and will be the “most im­por­tant role that I have ever had”.

In an ex­clu­sive widerang­ing in­ter­view, Mr Zem­pi­las re­vealed what he wants to achieve first in the top job, his plan to tackle home­less­ness, as well as his views on WA’s hard bor­der, fac­tion­al­ism and where he sees Perth at the end of his in­au­gu­ral term.

TOP PRI­OR­I­TIES AND A FRESH START

Mr Zem­pi­las said dur­ing his three-month cam­paign, he made it very clear and it was “made very clear to me” that the city’s ratepay­ers and res­i­dents “ex­pected a safer, cleaner, friend­lier city”.

“That’s what I want and that’s what they want, so that’s what I want to get to work on first and fore­most,” he said.

Mr Zem­pi­las said his first of­fi­cial project would be to work with the coun­cil and for him and the eight new coun­cil­lors to get to know each other and the coun­cil’s ad­min­is­tra­tion “and for them to have ev­ery­thing in place to be able to sup­port us”.

“But this is a new start,” he said.

“It’s a line in the sand. It’s a re­turn to what the ratepay­ers and res­i­dents ex­pect and that is good gov­er­nance, strong

We need to find bet­ter in­terim solutions for those peo­ple who are

home­less

I just want peo­ple to feel like (the City is) a more wel­com­ing en­vi­ron­ment

A once in a gen­er­a­tion op­por­tu­nity for

a fresh start

lead­er­ship and a pri­or­ity of them be­ing first as it should be,” he said.

HOME­LESS­NESS

De­scrib­ing home­less­ness as a “huge is­sue” for ratepay­ers and vis­i­tors to the CBD, Mr Zem­pi­las said the re­sponse re­quired co-or­di­na­tion between the City of Perth and the State Gov­ern­ment.

“It’s a shared re­spon­si­bil­ity and my view is, the sit­u­a­tion at the mo­ment, it’s not fair on the in­di­vid­u­als them­selves and it’s not fair on the City of Perth and we need to find bet­ter in­terim solutions for those peo­ple who are home­less.”

Mr Zem­pi­las has promised to work with Bris­bane-based group Bed­down to turn CBD carparks into shel­ters for rough sleep­ers af­ter dark.

“They take empty or un­used spa­ces in the City of Bris­bane and use them to put a roof over peo­ple’s heads,” he said. “They roll out bed­ding and wrap around ser­vices, and in­stead of peo­ple sleep­ing on the streets, they sleep in a safer en­vi­ron­ment where they can get a good night’s sleep and get some ex­tra sup­port.”

HARD BOR­DER

While sup­port­ive of Pre­mier Mark McGowan’s hard bor­der pol­icy, Mr Zem­pi­las said he be­lieved the tough stance should start to soften “sooner rather than later”.

“I am of the view that soon we are go­ing to need to look to be­gin to open up the bor­ders be­cause we can’t live like this for­ever,” he said.

Mr Zem­pi­las said his view was that the eas­ing of bor­der re­stric­tions could start with cases of hard­ship, such as those with a com­pelling need to re­unite with fam­ily.

“Per­haps we could look at soft­en­ing our stance on bor­ders in a smaller num­ber of cases, and see how that goes,” he said.

De­spite City of Perth busi­nesses and ho­tels hav­ing been hit hard by the ef­fects of the

COVID-19 pan­demic, Mr Zem­pi­las said the hard bor­der was not a ma­jor is­sue raised dur­ing his cam­paign.

FAC­TION­AL­ISM

Com­mis­sioner Tony Power, who led a probe into the fail­ures of City of Perth coun­cil­lors and staff af­ter the sus­pen­sion of the last coun­cil in 2018, found one of the fac­tors that led to the dys­func­tion un­der for­mer lord mayor Lisa Scaf­fidi was that it was “fac­tion­alised”.

Mr Zem­pi­las yes­ter­day said fac­tion­al­ism was dif­fer­ent to team­work.

“I was very clear, and I am very clear on this that fac­tion­al­ism was con­demned in the in­quiry, we all un­der­stand that,” he said.

“But I think that any­body who ap­plies com­mon sense re­alises that fac­tion­al­ism and team­work are not the same thing. They are two dif­fer­ent things.

“I will not seek or ex­pect any­body’s sup­port on any in­di­vid­ual is­sue that is voted upon, ev­ery­body is ex­pected to bring their own ideas, their own de­ci­sion-mak­ing process and ul­ti­mately their own vote to what­ever is brought be­fore coun­cil.”

FU­TURE PERTH

As well as his vi­sion for a safer, cleaner and “friend­lier” city, Mr Zem­pi­las said that in three years, he also hoped there would be a great vi­brancy to the city.

“Clearly that’s what peo­ple want,” he said.

“I just want peo­ple to feel like it’s a more wel­com­ing en­vi­ron­ment. And right now, there are a num­ber of rea­sons why peo­ple don’t nec­es­sar­ily come into the city to ei­ther work, to shop, or to live.

“If in the next three years we can change some of those cir­cum­stances to be able to bring more peo­ple in, in all of those ar­eas, then we will have achieved a good deal.”

MY MOST IM­POR­TANT JOB

Mr Zem­pi­las, who works for Seven West Me­dia, pub­lisher of The West Aus­tralian, says he has been “blessed to have a won­der­ful ca­reer” but says his job as Lord Mayor will be “the most im­por­tant role that I have ever had”.

“Lord Mayor of the City of Perth is my most im­por­tant un­der­tak­ing of my ca­reer, and quite frankly, I’m over­joyed, ex­cited and can’t wait to get into it,” he said.

Mr Zem­pi­las said: “I think I’ve thought about this for about 20 years.” He said he de­cided to nom­i­nate af­ter the COVID-19 pan­demic hit, and that meant a likely re­duc­tion in travel for work in fu­ture.

He also said the fact there was no in­cum­bent lord mayor, meant it was a clean slate and a fresh start.

“It’s a once in a gen­er­a­tion op­por­tu­nity for a fresh start,” Mr Zem­pi­las said.

Sandy Anghie

Pic­ture: Simon Santi

Lord Mayor Basil Zem­pi­las hold­ing three-year-old An­thony with wife Amy and daugh­ters Chloe, 7, and Ava, 9.

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