This is the personal blog of Ian Ker, who was Councillor for the South Ward of the Town of Vincent from 1995 to 2009. I have been a resident of this area since 1985. This blog was originally conceived as a way of letting residents of Vincent know what I have been doing and sharing thoughts on important issues. I can now use it to sound off about things that concern me.

If you want to contact me, my e-mail is still or post a comment on this blog.

To post a comment on this blog, select the individual post on which you wish to comment, by clicking on the title in the post or in the list to the left of the blog, and scroll down to the 'Post a Comment' box at the foot.

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Friday, November 29, 2013

A Win For Democracy and Common Sense

The light is dawning on non-metropolitan members of the WA Parliament that the fixes being introduced by Col Pot and sidekick Homer Simpson are symptomatic of a megalomania that would ultimately engulf country local governments as well.

So - congratulations to the Nationals for refusing to support the Government's proposed stacking and control of the Local Government Advisory Board. Now they need to see that the same dangers to country local governments arise from the whole process of forced metropolitan local government amalgamations.

The onus is in the Government to demonstrate that changes to local government are in the community interest - if they were able to do that, then the changes would get support or, at the very least, too little opposition to meet the veto requirements currently in the Local Government Act. The fact that the Government has not been able to demonstrate the value of its proposed changes (not to mention the fact that its proposed changes keep changing) suggests either the benefits are not there (as experience elsewhere would suggest) or that the Government does not believe the benefits are there and is pursuing its agenda for purely ideological reasons known only to the Premier.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

More Ministerial Confusion

The residents of Cockburn are rightly up in arms about the huge changes made to the Government's initial proposals for local government, which would have seen Kwinana and Cockburn combined. Despite saying, when the original proposals were released, that only minor changes would be considered, the Government has now released proposals showing Cockburn dismembered, with three parts going separate ways.

This is by no means the only time that the Government has said one thing and done another (starting with Col Pot's original election promise not to force amalgamations on local governments) - and even now the Local Government Minister, Tony Simpson (who does more every day, it seems, to justify the nickname Homer), can't agree with himself. On the one hand he says that a final decision on the mergers has not been made. At the same time he says: "the Government has put in a submission to the advisory board, we haven't put in a final map, only a decision".

Does anyone in this Government listen to him/herself, let alone listen to other Ministers or the Premier? Of course, when so much that is said by them is nonsense, there might well be something to be said for not listening - if it wasn't all so serious.

One thing we do know is that none of them is listening to the communities that elected them.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What Colin Barnett Did………

Fremantle Herald, 23rd November 2013
I don't want to buy into the Fremantle/East Fremantle issues, but Michael Willicombe raises a key point when he says that what Col Pot did was to create a starting point so ridiculous that any improvement would seem like a win (to those gullible…).

As I have mentioned many times here, including in the most recent post, it might seem like a win to have gone from a proposal to split Vincent to one where all (except the riverside residents of Banks Precinct) disappear into the City of Perth, but the outcome is not guaranteed to allow the continuation of those things we value about Vincent.

Why, one might well ask, is the City of Perth proposing to make a traffic sewer of Newcastle Street that would sever the current Vincent from Northbridge and the city?

No prizes for stating the obvious answer.

City of Perth Showing Its True Colours

The City of Perth (, pp122-129) is considering providing yet more east-west traffic capacity on Newcastle Street, which already has problems at intersections with north-south arterials. The proposal would require changes (= reduction) to footpath widths, loss of trees and restriction of right turns to turn back the clock ten years. As the City of Perth's report says, this would be returning the cross-section of the street to what existed ten years ago and operating the kerbside lanes as clearways.

More information on this at

At present, the City of Perth cannot make this retrograde step off its own bat, as Newcastle Street is the boundary with the City of Vincent. I don't believe that Vincent Council would ever agree to this.

But come the Barnett revolution, if it succeeds, the City of Perth will control at least this part of Vincent and will be able to appease its big business masters by relocating traffic from the business strip of St George's Terrace onto the small businesses and residents of Newcastle Street.

Is this what any of us wants for any part of Vincent? I sincerely doubt that it is - but if all or part of Vincent disappears into Perth, this is what we'll get.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Why So Coy?

No prizes for guessing why the Government doesn't want to draw attention to the detail of the interest in and media coverage of the proposed changes to local government in Perth.

And to say that "some of the claims made in response to the proposals captured by the attention of Local Government Minister Tony Simpson" tells us what, exactly? One would hope that he is paying attention, but it would be more helpful to know what his responses to them are. In the two weeks since the proposals were released, Homer has issued no media releases on the subject and his occasional utterances have confused rather than clarified. As already reported here, just days after the Government of which he is a part released 'final' proposals for the dramatic reshaping of metropolitan local government, he stated that he thought there was 'a good case for a substantial variation from the proposal for the City of Stirling to lose Inglewood and Dianella'.

Friday, November 22, 2013

LNP Governments Can't Take Criticism

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has much in common with his federal and WA counterparts, Tony Abbott and Colin Barnett. This is becoming a defining feature of conservative governments in Australia.

Campbell Newman uses his parliamentary majority to replace a parliamentary committee that expressed some critical views with one that is stacked with his supporters.

Colin Barnett wants to change the rules midway through his grand plans for metropolitan local government so that people will not have the opportunity to express their views.

At least Campbell Newman was honest enough to been seen to be responding to criticism (even if in an anti-democratic way). Colin Barnett, however, is so gutless that he attempts to stifle that criticism before it can be voiced. He's stacked the Local Government Advisory Board (just like Campbell Newman with his committee) and is in the process of making sure the LGAB won't call for public submissions on the government's local government proposals.

And as for Tony Abbott, his is the typical brain-damaged boxer's style that might work in Opposition but is disastrous in government. In opposition, this manifests as 'playing the (wo)man'; in government, it seems to be 'say nothing unless you can play the (wo)man to deflect the blows'.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Unwanted, Unasked For, Unwelcome and No Democratic Vote

Not to mention lots of money for management consultants.

And if the State Government (aka the WA taxpayer) pays the costs, 25% will come from rural and regional WA people who can in no way expect any of the so-far nebulous and undocumented 'benefits'.
Subiaco Post 16th November 2013

The Headline Says It All

"Lack of clarity of vision."
"There is a reason even the biggest companies don't pick off more than one acquisition at a time."
Click to enlarge

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Does Michael Sutherland Understand the Local Government Amendment Bill?

Guardian Express, 19th November 2013.
The Guardian Express item, here, quotes Mt Lawley MLA, Michael Sutherland, as saying: "residents could still influence the final boundaries by submitting individual responses to the LGAB".

Does he not understand that the Local Government Amendment Bill currently before the Legislative Assembly would remove the requirement for the Local Government Advisory Board to seek submissions for at least six weeks?

Is he so naive as to think that the LGAB will process any of the proposals until it knows whether the Bill will become law?

If he really believes that the community should have the right to comment on boundary proposals, he should be asking his fellow MPs to vote against at least that part of the Bill. I know that as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly he would be in a difficult position were he to comment publicly on the Bill, but I hope he is privately lobbying for the removal of this anti-democratic provision.

More Policy On The Run

Just days after the Government of which he is a part released 'final' proposals for the dramatic reshaping of metropolitan local government, Tony Simpson, Minister for Local Government, has stated he thinks there is a good case for a substantial variation from the proposal for the City of Stirling to lose Inglewood and Dianella.

What on earth is going on here? This is by no means the first time that Barnett or Simpson have been at odds with each other or with Cabinet on issues of local government boundaries. 

There used to be a convention of Cabinet solidarity, by which Ministers did not criticise decisions of Cabinet. What is Simpson doing if not criticising a Cabinet decision? 

Perhaps it's simply that Homer isn't up to the job and didn't actually understand what Cabinet was discussing and the decision it made.
Guardian Express, 19th November 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Does The Premier Understand Conflict of Interest?

I have previously asked the rhetorical questions "Does the Premier Understand Fairness?" and "Does the Premier Understand Due Process?" in this blog.

I am now forced to ask whether he understands the concept of conflict of interest. Hot on the heels of his asking us to trust him about negotiating a sale of the Kwinana grain terminal to Len Buckridge at the same time as the people of WA are being sued by Buckridge for $1billion, he is set to reward Chevron for buying into his Elizabeth Quay development by giving concessions for its own developments in the North West.

Now it might be that both deals are above board and in the interests of the people of WA (and pigs might fly), but he can hardly blame us for thinking that his giving away A-class reserve land with no environmental offsets must be a pay-off for something else.

Rewriting (Unwriting?) History

How long, I wonder, before the Liberal (now there's a misnomer if ever there was one) governments of Tony Abbott and Colin Barnett do something similar here. They already have a track record of concealing information (on the boats, for example), policy without information (forced local government amalgamations in WA) and changing the rules to reduce dissent (House of Representatives standing order changes and the current Local Government Amendment Bill in WA).

Yet another area where the right-wing parties are living in the past - and don't know how the internet works. All the deleted material is almost certainly available elsewhere on the internet (as a number of comments to this article state - including giving details of how they can be accessed). All they succeed in doing is making themselves look stupid - so what's new?

Lines Are Drawn

I hesitate to call them battle lines, although there is still a lot of disagreement and confrontation still to come. But at least the lines are there for all to see now - whether we agree with them or not, we now know what the Local Government Advisory Board will be assessing.

What we don't know is whether we'll get an opportunity to comment on the proposals - the Bill currently before Parliament would remove the requirement for the Local Government Advisory Board to call for submissions and allow at least six weeks for them to be made.

We also don't know whether we'll get an opportunity to vote on them. Whilst the Dadour amendment isn't currently under direct threat, the Premier and Minister have made it very clear they would like to remove that provision - but they are having difficulty getting it through the party room. To all those Liberal MPs who oppose removal, I say "Hang in there" and do what's right to preserve democracy.

I have, however, heard disturbing suggestions that the Government will argue that the Dadour amendment doesn't apply to at least some of the changes they are proposing - it all hangs on the definition of 'abolish'. I can only presume that their argument, if you can call it such, is that if the name of one amalgamated local government continues then it has not been abolished. Thus, the name City of Perth continues, so only Vincent is 'abolished' - despite the fact that the new entity would be more than twice the area and three times the population of the existing City of Perth.

This is pure sophistry, as this argument would not apply if the new local government were to have a different name. The fact is that the City of Perth as currently existing, would be abolished and a new, larger, City of Perth established in its place.

The argument also ignores the fact that the City of Perth amalgamation proposal also takes in parts of Nedlands and Subiaco - and these councils are to be abolished, which makes three - the Dadour amendment requires "2 or more" to be abolished.

Wrong Again, Homer

Local Government Minister, Tony (Homer) Simpson, appears confused when talking about 'opportunistic councils' and rates. Apart from anything else, it is illuminating that he clearly distrusts the yet-be-elected Councils of the larger, more efficient local governments he and Col Pot are proposing to establish.

He says "It's not accurate to say that just because your council loses 30,000 people you have to raise rates", but there is only one instance of an existing Council being smaller (Stirling, by 30,000, strangely enough) after the changes than before.

What most discussion is about, including from Lisa Scaffidi about whose statements I have been very scathing, is that if you amalgamate two or more areas that have different rate levels, then some will pay more and some less after amalgamation to produce the same total rate revenue. In many cases the differentials are so great that this will be so even if the yet-to-be-demonstrated financial efficiencies are actually achieved.

And it would hardly aid the cause of creating a new sense of community to maintain existing rate differentials services that would be the same across the whole area.

As for saying that councils "could not know how merger arrangements would affect their financial situations", we have seen nothing that remotely suggests that HS or CP have any idea, either.

No wonder the pair of them are intent on removing the rights we have to make submissions on amalgamation proposals or, ultimately, to vote on them. They know - and we know - that the community is being asked to by the proverbial pig in a poke.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

It's Official - City of Perth ONLY Wants Businesses

What more is there to say! Those pesky PEOPLE who live near and are affected by the great City of Perth might actually contribute to a more rounded view of what constitutes a community.

This view seems, at first sight, to be in conflict with the City of Perth's own statement that "the residential rate is set at a relatively low level……to support the City's aim of encouraging people to reside in the City". Presumably there are limits on how many people the City of Perth wants to live in the City - enough to provide customers for businesses but not so many that they might dilute the business voices.
Guardian Express, 12 November 2013

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Squeaky Wheels

No great surprises in the now-released revised Government proposals for local government amalgamations. As already announced, all of Vincent is proposed to be amalgamated with the City of Perth. And, as already surmised from maps inadvertently released, the 'Greater Fremantle' proposal has been adopted (so the total number of local governments proposed is now 15. And City of Stirling gets to keep those parts of Mt Lawley it currently has (but not other areas that go to Bayswater/Bassendean).

These are more sensible outcomes than the initial proposals for forced amalgamations, but it is by no means certain that they are really what the communities want. Vincent's plebiscite, for example, clearly demonstrated that most wanted to keep Vincent as it is.

Squeaky wheels might get the grease (Vincent, Fremantle and Stirling seem to have been the most vociferous and best organised communities - although that might partly reflect where I live), but at least some of the worst aspects of the initial proposals have been removed.

But there are some strange bits of detail that take some explaining. I've already mentioned the Banks riverside area of Vincent that is excluded from the City of Perth amalgamation. There's also an odd area south of Roe Highway that goes from Canning to the greater Melville (despite being effectively cut off from it by Roe Highway), presumably because it includes the City of Canning Recycle and Waste Disposal Facility.

And the City of Stirling, without Inglewood, looks rather strange with its protrusion to the south-east. Much though I hate to say it, perhaps the opportunity should have been taken to unify the Mt Lawley Centre by putting the Stirling part of Mt Lawley into Perth, if there are going to be changes. Not that the City of Perth would want that, of course, having set their sights on a smaller, but highly lucrative, land grab.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Spinning With Spurious Pictures

Fascinating how pictures can be used to 'spin' almost anything. The Metropolitan Local Government [so-called] Reform Update is headed by four feel-good images that have absolutely nothing to do with local government amalgamations. In fact, three of the four images could easily be seen as promoting the values of the local in local government, which goes totally against the amalgamation agenda. The fourth (on the right) is taken from in front of the Casino or Golf Course looking towards the City of Perth, one of the highly-contentious areas - to be taken from the Town of Victoria Park and gifted to the City of Perth and the site of the equally-contentious new football colosseum.

Transparent Damage Control

In a transparent attempt at damage control, Local Government Minister, Tony Simpson, has said that he intends to release the final maps of the Government's local government proposals 'this week' and until then "any comment on the Government's position on boundaries was pure speculation".

It is hard to say which would be more embarrassing for the Government - to release 'final' proposals that are consistent with the inadvertently-released maps or to release ones that show something different - the latter implying that either the Government had changed its mind solely in order to show the previous maps were 'wrong' or that maps had been prepared 'in error'.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Pocket Full of Mumbles
For those who sold their souls for the proverbial mess of pottage and voted Liberal at State or Federal levels, thus giving the rest of us the government THEY deserve, the words of Paul Simon (from 'The Boxer' - itself ironic at the federal level) seem highly apt.

I am just a poor boy
Though my story's seldom told
I have squandered my resistance
For a pocket full of mumbles such are promises
All lies and jests
Still a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest.

If the written words seem unclear, listen to the song and you'll hear the meaning.

Methinks we could do with a few bridges over a whole host of troubled waters.

Definition of Optimism, Narcissism and Denial all in one

Sorry Col, but a lot of us think you have lost any credibility when it comes to trust, whether it's keeping promises (such as 'no forced local government amalgamations') or having the best interests of WA at heart (such as all those unfunded infrastructure projects and losing the AAA credit rating).

That little mistake was said to have cost the fictional UK taxpayer £40 million - $220 million at today's prices and exchange rates - a drop in the ocean compared to Len Buckridge's claim - but we're real taxpayers having to foot the bill, not fictional ones.

Friday, November 8, 2013

What Community of Interest? Lisa's Dummy Spit

Perth Lord Mayor, Lisa Scaffidi, is clearly trying to make it impossible for the Local Government Advisory Board to recommend either the State Government's or the City of Vincent's proposals for incorporation of most or all of Vincent into Perth. There is clearly no 'community of interest' from the point of view of the City of Perth.
Perth Voice, 9th November 2013
At the same time, however, by being so confrontational she makes it difficult for the LGAB to recommend the City of Perth's asset grab. The City of Perth's proposal is so clearly mere asset-stripping that the LGAB could not possibly recommend it as it leaves a supposedly unviable rump of Vincent that would, presumably, be just as much of a drain on Stirling as it would on the City of Perth - if Lisa is to be believed.

Can't have it both ways Lisa.

Insightful Cartoon - Watch Out For The Gerrymander

Perth Voice, 9th November 2013
I love this week's cartoon in the Perth Voice. It sums up everything the City of Perth fears about the proposed amalgamation with Vincent - that it would actually have to engage with real people in the community.

Individual councillors might be insulated to some extent if there were a ward structure, but that wouldn't help Lisa S as the Lord Mayor would still be elected by the community at large - and would need a sizeable chunk of the 21,000 Vincent voters (compared to the 10,000 or so in Perth).

It would be no surprise, therefore, to see the City of Perth pressing for a ward structure with a heavy bias towards the existing City of Perth and the Lord Mayor to be elected by Councillors from the gerrymandered Council so elected.

People Value Fairness
Before he gets too carried away with changing the rules to ensure he gets the outcome he wants, Colin Barnett should ponder the research that shows that people value fairness over outcomes. In general terms, although having our say might not change the outcome, when we don't get to voice our concerns we perceive the fairness of the process less favourably than when we do.

This is all part of what Ori and Rom Brafman call 'the irresistable pull of irrational behaviour'.

Faced with the scale of opposition and opprobrium that forced local government amalgamations have produced, the rational thing for CB to do, you'd think, would be to work to get some runs on the board through co-operative action. Instead, he chooses to change the rules with retrospective application, thus increasing the amount of opposition not only to the specific changes but also to the supposed objectives of those changes.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Blind-with-Power Leading the Blind?

The nickname Homer might be appropriate for Local Government Minister, Tony Simpson, for more than his shared name with a cartoon character. The ancient Greek writer, Homer, he of the Iliad and the Odyssey, was reputed to be blind. The picture below shows Homer with a guide. Replace the guide, Glaucus, by Colin Barnett and you have 'the blind-with-power leading the blind'.

Now we just need the dogs to beset them both.

Incidentally, Glaucus was also the name of a sea god, born mortal and turned immortal upon eating a magic herb. Has CB been indulging in the magic herbs too much and succumbed to delusions of grandeur?
Homer and His Guide, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825–1905), portraying Homer on Mount Ida, beset by dogs and guided by the goatherder Glaucus (as told in Pseudo-Herodotus)
Picture from Wikimedia Commons, 
a freely licensed media file repository

Changing The Rules at Half-Time

The Local Government Amendment Bill currently before the Legislative Assembly amounts to changing the rules at half-time to score an advantage over the opposing team.

Tucked away at the end of the Bill is a little clause that is more like changing the rules at half-time because the opposing team's midfielders are scoring too many goals and then saying that any goals they've scored in the first half shall not be counted.

You'd think that CB would understand, as a former footy player, why the same rules apply throughout a game. However, he clearly knows he has not only the opposing team but also the crowd against him - and changing the rules retrospectively is the only way he can win. Typical bullying behaviour - play it my way or I'll make sure you don't play at all.

Of course, an alternative explanation is that CB has fixed the LGAB and doesn't want others to waste their time making futile submissions. That's the more charitable interpretation, but it still stinks.

The United States has a constitutional prohibition on retrospective legislation, but even though Australia doesn't there is a presumption against it, especially where it creates an offence or liability that did not previously exist. In the case of the current forced local government amalgamations, local Councils, community organisations and individuals might well have acted in the way they have in the legitimate expectation that they would be able to have their say in submissions to the Local Government Advisory Board.

So, whatever the Local Government Amendment Bill might say, I reckon that aggrieved Councils, groups or individuals would have a fair chance of success in legal action to declare the retrospective provision illegal.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

We'll Hold You To That, Col

When the carbon tax was introduced, Synergy infamously increased green power charges by the same percentage as power from fossil fuel on the spurious grounds that it couldn't differentiate fossil fuel electricity from renewable power. This argument was totally at odds with its ability to charge green power users a higher tariff in the first place.

So, Col, when (if? - I wouldn't be holding my breath) electricity charges come down, they'd better come down by as much for green power as for fossil-fuel power. No spurious arguments about the carbon tax not applying to green power.

Vincent Council Restates (and Reinforces) Its Position on Amalgamations

At last night's (5th November) Council Meeting, the Vincent Council unanimously supported an urgent potion brought forward by Mayor John Carey that restated and reinforced the Council's position on forced amalgamations, and specifically expressed its opposition to the exclusion of part of the Banks Precinct from the proposed new City of Perth. The motion as passed had a minor amendment to strengthen 6.1, but was otherwise passed as presented.

Caroline Cohen and John Hockley, joint Chairs of the Banks Precinct Action Group, and a number of other BPAG members spoke from the public gallery on the issue, expressing their horror at being excluded for no apparent reason. There is no doubting that the 450 residents of this area want to be part of Vincent (even if that means Perth), not Bayswater/Bassendean.

I also spoke, on the broader issues still to be faced, including, as I have previously argued in this blog, that there is still no certainty that the Government's proposal would be the one finally endorsed by the Local Government Advisory Board.

A battle might have been won, but the war is far from over. 

Spot The Difference

I must have been so aghast on Monday at the atrocious treatment of the Banks community in Vincent that I failed to see the significance of the little insert map at the top right. Spot the difference between the 'before' (downloaded around 12.30pm on Monday) and the 'after' (the one now on the same website and attached to the same media release).
BEFORE                                                                                 AFTER
Thanks to the West Australian for redrawing the map and drawing out the meaning - although I wish they'd put their map on their website to save me the trouble of scanning it. Apart from the obvious response to vociferous communities in Vincent and Fremantle (and Stirling - although this is not 'already outlined', as the West states - just inadvertently included in both the before and after maps), there is a change to Serpentine-Jarrahdale. I have to admit, I'm not up to speed on how much community pressure there has been here, although I do know the proposed merger with Armadale was not popular, but is it purely co-incidental that the Shire is in Homer's electorate?
The West Australian, 6th November 2013. Click to enlarge.

Here We Go Again

When the City of Perth was split (into Perth, Vincent, Cambridge and Victoria Park) in 1993/4, it was largely in response to bleating from central city property owners that they were 'subsidising' the residential suburbs. Now Lisa Scaffidi, having learnt nothing in the intervening two decades, is spouting the same rubbish.

As the City of Perth itself points out, "the residential rate is set at a relatively low level when compared to other metropolitan authorities to support the City's aim of encouraging people to reside in the City".  So, property and business owners in the City are subsidising residential property right now. It would be interesting to know what the residential rate would be if not set artificially low in this way.

But the fact that the City of Perth feels it needs to subsidise residential in the City is illuminating in itself. Vincent doesn't provide subsidies - and still people flock here to live - ask any real estate agent in the area.

The fact is that the inner-city areas surrounding the central business district bear the costs (not just financial, but social and environmental as well) of providing the access that those same city property and business owners see as essential to their commercial well-being. Heavy traffic on Beaufort and Fitzgerald Streets detracts severely from the amenity of those centres. Heavy traffic on East Parade, Charles Street and Loftus Street cuts residents off from community amenities, businesses and public transport. The Mitchell Freeway cuts Leederville town centre businesses off from more than half their natural customer catchment.

The City of Perth, on the other hand, benefits twice. Once by businesses getting the customers and employees they need and a second time by the City of Perth getting multi-millions of dollars in parking revenues every year.

As I used to point out, if the then Town of Vincent were able to put a 50 cent toll on each car passing through the area to or from the city, we would have been able to do away with property rates in Vincent completely. This is not fanciful - other places in the world (Singapore, London, Stockholm, Durham (at a different scale)) have these sorts of access charges - perhaps it is time for Perth to seriously consider it too.

But even in its own terms, the 'subsidising residential areas' claim was false, anyway, as the new local governments quickly found, with a lot of their infrastructure having been neglected and needing urgent maintenance or upgrades - all of which had to be paid for.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Someone's Telling Porkies Again

Click to enlarge
Vincent Mayor, John Carey, said at tonight's Council Meeting that he had been given two 'explanations' of the omission of the Banks reserve area from the Vincent/Perth amalgamation map. One was that there had been an bureaucratic error (always an easy option to blame the public servants!); the other that it was intentional.

John said he had no way of knowing which was correct.

Well, the answer was staring us all in the face, but we just didn't see it. The map itself has the title "Expanded City of Perth, including parts of the Cities of Vincent, Nedlands and Subiaco and Town of Victoria Park".

Just to be clear, that is PARTS of all four - not all of the City of Vincent and parts of the others.

So, it's not that someone drew the map incorrectly, as the title presumably reflects the instructions given to the drafter of the map.

Just When Was The New Plan For Vincent/Perth Hatched?

Did anyone else notice the date on the map of the proposals released yesterday for Vincent/Perth? And on the electronic file of the map (see link below)?

More administrative incompetence? Or just another bit of sleight of hand to confuse us?

A Cross Between 'Yes, Minister' and 'Fawlty Towers'
I have been unable to confirm this from any online source, but given that new Stirling/Bayswater-Bassendean boundaries were inadvertently shown on the Perth/Vincent map yesterday (see earlier post on this blog) I wouldn't be at all surprised.

There seems to be an increasing air of manic incompetence about this whole process that, if it weren't so serious, would be hilarious. I can see a whole new era of TV entertainment emerging - a cross between 'Yes, Minister' and 'Fawlty Towers'.

When 14 Means 15 or Possibly 16 or…
The Premier was adamant, at one time, that the number of metropolitan local governments would be reduced from 30 to 14 - and that there were good and cogent reasons for doing so.

Now he is reported as saying that "there is no final figure set but the overall objective is to halve the number of councils, now whether it's 14, 15 or 16, we haven't got to that."

Sorry, Premier, what was that you said?

At this late stage of your supposedly well thought out plan you haven't yet resolved how many councils there should be?

Presumably some people are going to have to be working very hard for the next few days if, as you said, "over the next week or so the boundaries for the other areas will be finalised and released".

And I do hope that either you or Homer will have the courtesy, not extended to the Mayor of Vincent, to let the affected local councils know before you issue your media releases.

Damascene Conversion or Dastardly Deception?

According to Premier Colin Barnett, the streets of Vincent are like the Road to Damascus. He claims that he and Perth MLA Eleni Evangel "walked around Vincent and concluded that it was an inner-city locality" and that "I just saw first-hand how much Vincent is actually part of the City of Perth".

All very biblical, but the reality is that in putting his new proposal to the Local Government Advisory Board, he has made an enemy of the City of Perth, which several times had made it very clear that it was not interested in taking the whole of Vincent. I doubt that any state government really wants to make an enemy of the capital city Council - however it is configured.

So is there an alternative explanation of this apparent conversion?

The Government's proposal, along with those made by the City of Vincent and the City of Perth, has to be assessed by the Local Government Advisory Board, which will then make a recommendation to the Minister for Local Government. The LGAB may advise that the Minister accept or reject a proposal but may not, without substantially repeating the process, recommend significant changes to any of them.

The Minister may only accept or reject the advice of the LGAB - he cannot accept any other proposal nor can he amend a proposal recommended by the LGAB.

So the LGAB has to choose between three proposals and could choose the City of Perth's. If it does so, the Minister can only accept that recommendation (against his own Government's preferred proposal) or reject it, in which case the status quo would remain for Vincent and Perth (against the whole basis of the Government's local government agenda).

No prizes for guessing which the Minister would choose in that situation. And the Premier would claim the high moral ground by saying he tried to respond to the Vincent Community but the 'independent' Local Government Advisory Board decided differently.

And Lisa Agrees - No Surprise There

City of Perth Lord Mayor,Lisa Scaffidi, who not so long ago stood atop Central Park and proudly endorsed Colin Barnett's vision for the City has turned on her former partner in crime after his volte-face on the City of Vincent. In doing so she, perhaps inadvertently, gives credence and credibility to the widespread opposition to how the WA Government is mismanaging the whole process.

"Perth now joins a growing list of adversaries on the way this process is being managed, while previously we had been…in sync with the Government on this matter", she said.

The City of Perth must bear some of the responsibility for its own discomfort, though, as it submitted a proposal that took less of Vincent than the Government's one, in a blatant cherry-picking asset grab.

But, however you look at it, the Government is in disarray on local government so-called reform as well as being out of touch with the community. It's only a matter of time before the whole edifice comes tumbling down like a pack of cards.

Spot On, Trev.
Victoria Park Mayor, Trevor Vaughan, is spot on when he says that the new City of Perth proposal is all about politics - although I'd argue it is also about pragmatism.

Marginal seats are always political levers, but the pragmatism comes from the agenda of keeping major assets and projects such as the Burswood Stadium in the hands of a 'friendly' council that is not very concerned about their impacts on surrounding communities - because those communities are in other local governments.

And there we were thinking that the Local Government Act might mean what it said when it mentions 'community of interest' as a guiding principle for establishing local government boundaries.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Does This Premier Know Anything?
In an earlier post on this blog ('How Not To Understand A Community'), I took Local Government Minister, Tony (Homer) Simpson, to task for effectively saying that his only experience of Beaufort Street was driving up and down it on one occasion.

Now we have Colin Barnett, who, let's face it is pulling Simpson's strings, saying: "I mean go and drive, walk around Vincent, you know you can see the city skyline at the end of every street, clearly that's an inner city suburb … [A] different composition of people, not the same as you would have in the broader suburban area of Stirling. There is a functional, social, demographic difference."

Well, as Tony's alter ego would say, "Duh!"

Nothing's changed, Col. Vincent was like this when you started the process. Do you know your State so poorly that this comes as a revelation? You don't have to live here to know that. You don't even have to come here - you can see Vincent clearly from the upper levels of the Governor Stirling Tower where you had your office until recently - but yours was almost certainly on the river side so you probably didn't get to look out at where people actually live.

Does The Premier Even Understand Due Process?

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The map released by CP (Col Pot) and HS (Homer Simpson) today not only shows the new proposals for the Cities of Perth and Vincent - it also shows as-yet-unnanounced changes to the proposals for Stirling and Bayswater/Bassendean.

Apart from the Banks Precinct of Vincent going to Bayswater/Bassendean, the new boundary between Stirling and Bayswater/Bassendean has been shifted from Walcott Street up to Central Avenue/Walter Road and (incredibly aptly) Homer Street, with the Terry Tyzac Aquatic Centre remaining in Stirling.

Now, has either the Premier or his Minion (sorry, Minister) advised any of these local governments of this change? If not, why not?

Come to that, did either of them have the courtesy to advise the City of Vincent (or Nedlands or Subiaco or Victoria Park) of the changes they did announce today?

Does The Premier Even Understand Fairness?

Early in the piece, the Premier stated that only minor changes to the government's proposals for local government would be considered. He subsequently changed that (although without telling his Local Government Minister) to all all of Vincent to joint the City of Perth if both local governments could agree - knowing full well that the City of Perth had a clearly-stated position of only being interested in the asset-rich parts of Vincent.

Now we have the Premier proposing that (almost - but not quite) all of Vincent should be amalgamated with the City of Perth.

The ground rules are changing - and I wonder how that can be considered fair to those local governments who either said the whole thing is a farce so we won't put in a proposal or who chose to put in 'minimal-variation' proposals on the basis that anything that differed more substantially from the Government's initial proposals would be given short shrift.

Premier's Porky: Where's The Logic - or the Fairness?

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The Premier is telling porkies again - or is simply incompetent. In his joint media release with sidekick Homer Simpson, he states that his new proposal for the City of Perth takes in 'the entire City of Vincent'.

This is not true.

As pointed out in the previous post ('The Perils of Politics on the Run'), the Banks Precinct (that's the area at the north-east corner of Vincent) has been excluded - probably so that the residents of the delightful residential enclave will have no say in the redevelopment of the East Perth Power Station site (once mooted for the new AFL stadium) and still likely to be affected by the crowds going to and from games at the Burswood site.

Of course, with the site being controlled by the Government's Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority, the Premier wouldn't want pesky nearby residents to be able to have a say - just as he doesn't want us to able to have a say in the local government changes (see earlier post 'Now This IS Anti-Democratic').

There have already been several proposals for development of the East Perth Power Station site - all of which either have the main access from Summers Street (on the very edge of the Banks Precinct area) or involve a new bridge over the railway that would bring more through traffic into the area on a daily basis.

The Perils of Politics on the Run

In a transparent attempt to sideline the City of Vincent's 'one-in, all-in' campaign, Col Pot and Homer Simpson have submitted a new proposal to the Local Government Advisory board which, they claim, takes in 'the entire City of Vincent'. In fact the map makes it clear that it doesn't - residents of the Banks Precinct are excluded (I'll deal with that separately).

They also ignore the fact that the majority of those who supported the 'one-in all-in' approach at the recent plebiscite also said that that they would prefer that the City of Vincent not be abolished in the first place.

So don't think you've neutralised Vincent, Mr Premier. If anything, your transparent treatment of us as a political plaything will galvanise many of us to even greater efforts to stop you from subverting the democratic process.
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Saturday, November 2, 2013

How Very True
Whether one agrees with what Colin Barnett is doing or not, you'd have to admit that Tanya Plibersek is spot on the money when she says that "West Australians did not get the Colin Barnett they voted for" - and that's even without mentioning the whole dishonest saga of forced local government amalgamations.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Direct Access To The Parliament
There is a burgeoning virtual community around the development of electronic petitions for a whole range of purposes. However, electronic petitions do not meet the current requirements for presentation to, never mind being debated in, the WA Parliament.

Imagine my surprise and delight at finding that the UK Government has put in place a formal process to co-ordinate petitions to Government/Parliament and to allow those that get sufficient support to be debated in the House of Commons.

In the two years since this system was put in place, 7.2 million people have signed one or more petitions on the site and 19 of those petitions have been debated in the UK Parliament, having achieved the required 100,000 signatures.

Time for something similar to at least attempt to prevent the abuses of power by Col Pot and co, methinks - or even just to let them know what we think of their perversions of democracy.

Something for Barnett to Ponder

Yesterday, the Leader of the UK House of Commons, made a commitment at the Open Government Partnership conference in London to publish legislation in draft format to promote public involvement and engagement in proposed changes to the law ( This is one of 21 commitments in the UK Government's Open Government Partnership UK National Action Plan 2013-2015 and comes under the heading of Empowering citizens; transforming the relationship between citizens and governments.

There are many things not to like about the current UK Government (not least the transparent sellout by the Liberal Democrats), but this looks like a giant step in the right direction.

I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for Colin Barnett to do something similar - especially where he has an agenda that conflicts with the wishes of so many. He prefers to keep draft legislation under wraps and spring it even on the Parliament at short notice.

Something Else For Abbott To Renege On?

Looking more closely at the Open Government Partnership, I see that Australia hasn't yet joined - and is due to do so in April 2014. This is presumably a commitment of the previous Labor government - so don't be surprised if Tony Abbott decides the OGP is something he would prefer to do without.

An Irregular Verb - or A Perfectly Reasonable Question?

Of course, the Premier will argue that 'taking a bit of licence' is different from lying. Sounds like one of those irregular verbs beloved of 'Yes, Minister'.

I take a bit of license. 

You bend the truth. 

He tells lies.

Open Government?

At both State (WA) and Federal levels, there seems to be at best an ambivalent attitude towards what is generally called 'open government'.

In a delightful piece of irony, Australia's near-neighbour, Indonesia, is about to take on the chairmanship of the Open Government Partnership (, an international platform for domestic reformers committed to making their government's more open, accountable and responsive to citizens. UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, and Indonesia's Vice-President both addressed the OGP Conference in London, yesterday, 31st October 2013.
One of the objectives of the OGP is Defending space for civil society to engage, by which it means that for government to be responsive to people it is essential to have a vibrant and independent civil society that collaborates with and challenges government as necessary. 

I wonder if Tony Abbott or Colin Barnett have any idea what is wrong with their approaches of withholding information (for example on asylum-seeker arrivals, in the case of Tony Abbott) or removing existing rights to comment on government proposals (for local government amalgamations, in the case of Colin Barnett)?

If not (and I strongly suspect they do really know but are unwilling or unable to cope with differences of view), I am sure the Open Government Partnership would be willing to enlighten them.

It Means What I Want It to Mean

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At least that seems to be what Colin Barnett has been saying until he was finally forced by irrefutable evidence that he took "a bit of licence" with the letters he received from the Chairmen of Synergy and Verve.

This same assertion, which is effectively that the ends justify the means, underlies his approach to local government.

'The ends justify the means' is derived from Machiavelli's 'The Prince' - a treatise on how to gain power and hold onto it - and broadly means doing whatever is necessary to get what you want irrespective of the methods used to do so. 

There is often a high level of cognitive dissonance involved as the means would otherwise not be acceptable to the person concerned - especially if used by an opponent.

In both cases here, Synergy/Verve and local government so-called reform, there is not even any clear evidence that the ends are of any benefit to anyone. It is quite simply that, having nailed his flag to the mast, Col Pot is unwilling (or psychologically unable) to admit that his 'solution' might not be the best one or even (heaven forbid!) might be a non-solution to a non-problem.

Incidentally, does Colin Barnett have a history of getting rid of those who displease him? He clearly has problems with local government, especially in the western suburbs, but he was also the Education Minister who closed Hollywood High School, where he was educated. I wonder if he had bad memories of his school days that drove him to seek revenge?