PERTH CAN BE ONE OF THE GREATEST CITIES IN THE WORLD
And now is the time to make it happen
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas holding three-year-old Anthony with wife Amy and daughters Chloe, 7, and Ava, 9.