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.

Search This Blog

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Transformation Costs Ignored

One of the things that is often ignored in change proposals is the cost of the transformation. We know, from statements made by Minister Simpson, that neither he nor the LGAB has looked at either cost or benefits, but one thing that ought to be blindingly obvious is that transformation costs increase rapidly with the complexity of the change.

With that in mind, let's look at the two latest 'likely recommendations' from the LGAB.

In the case of Melville, the 'new' Melville includes:
- two separate (non-contiguous) areas from Cockburn;
- one area from Fremantle;
- two separate (non-contiguous) areas from Canning; and
- loss of one area to Fremantle.

In the case of Cockburn, the 'new' Cockburn-Kwinana includes:
- loss of two separate (non-contiguous) areas to Fremantle;
- loss of two separate (non-contiguous) areas to Melville;
- addition of a small area from Rockingham; and
- amalgamation of 90+% of Cockburn with Kwinana.

In each case, there will be a need to identify policies, commitments and assets for each of the areas 'changing hands' and somehow deal with them in a equitable way - not always easy, as assets, in particular, have been paid for collectively by the ratepayers of the whole current local government. Policies cannot be harmonised overnight and it is likely that Melville Council, for example, will have to work with four different sets of policies (its own, Cockburn, Fremantle and Canning) for some time.

Ask yourself whether it is likely that the efficiency gains from what are mainly relatively small changes at the edges of Cockburn, Fremantle and Melville will be greater than the costs. You don't need to be a forensic accountant to work out that this is not very likely at all.

So why is the LGAB messing around at the margins? Why is it increasingly fragmenting proposed changes when it is supposed (but failed) to consider costs as part of its assessments?

Chaos or Incompetence (or both) at the LGAB?

Just one month after announcing its intention to make some 'significantly different [from original proposals] recommendations affecting Cockburn, Kwinana, Fremantle, East Fremantle, Melville and Canning, the Local Government Advisory Board has come up with yet another set of variations - and as with the previous ones has provided no justification for these changes.

As stated here on the previous occasion:

Just as with the original Ministerial proposals there is insufficient information. There is no text (other than a simple description of the changes to boundaries from the original proposals), only maps - the 'intended recommendations' that are 'significantly different from the proposals into which the LGAB inquired' do not provide the information required for a proposal in the first place. How are individuals, organisations and local Councils supposed to comment when there is no information on the basis on which the LGAB is recommending the changes?

Schedule 2.1 Clause 6 Para 2 of the Local Government Act 1995 states that the Board must afford "adequate opportunity for submissions to be made about the intended order" - surely 'adequate opportunity' must include not only time but also information. If we do not know why the LGAB is recommending these variations, how can we be said to have 'adequate opportunity' to make submissions?

As much to the point, though, this second change of mind must surely call into question the technical and professional competence of the Local Government Advisory Board to deal with such a complex situation as it has been presented with.

Compare these new intentions of the LGAB (upper maps below) with its previous versions (lower maps). One can only presume that, with respect to Cockburn (left), the LGAB has had some profound revelation about the importance of the (probably never to be built) Roe Highway Stage 8 and the existing Roe Highway, but one is forced to ask why this hadn't occurred to it before. And if Roe Highway is such an important 'natural boundary' (which arguably it is) why has the LGAB now moved Jandakot Airport into Melville despite its being virtually cut off from that local government area by Roe Highway?

The LGAB's new proposal for Melville/Canning has all the hallmarks of a simplistic 'judgement of Solomon' with none of the Wisdom of Solomon - it simply takes the middle ground between the original Melville proposal and the LGAB's initial variation on it. One thing is certain, it won't please Treasurer, Mike Nahan, as it splits his Riverton electorate down the middle too.

Cockburn: LGAB Variation 30th August 2014
Melville: LGAB Variation 30th August 2014

Cockburn: LGAB Variation 23rd July 2014
Melville: LGAB Variation 23rd July 2014

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Semantics At Work On Your Local Government

Another useful contribution from Joe Poprzeczny in the WA Business News today

Imperious Immediacy of Interest and the Law of Unintended Consequences

West Australian, 21st August 2014
Jeff Kennett, when Premier of Victoria, was the initiator of the state government fetish for forcing bigness on local governments and their communities. Now that he has acknowledged that he was wrong to sell off the TAB in Victoria, can we look forward to his similar honest assessment of the failings of forced amalgamations?

Kennett's volte-face is a recognition of the unforeseen and unintended consequences of selling the TAB, which allowed corporate bookmakers to take over the bookmaking industry without supporting the racing industry to the same extent as state-owned TABs.

There is direct analogy in forced local government amalgamations from which the primary beneficiaries will be corporate developers - although recent announcements from the WA Ministers for Planning and Local Government cast severe doubt on whether those consequences are either unforeseen or unintended.

Of course, the law of unintended consequences will also apply to what Barnett, Simpson and Day are doing to local government (if they are successful, that is). The first unintended consequence is already clear - the galvanising of public opinion and local councils to take legal action to test the validity of the tortuous and devious process by which the WA Government is apparently seeking to further the objectives of the development industry.

Robert Merton (Merton, Robert K. Sociological Ambivalence and Other Essays. New York: Free Press, 1976) identifed a key source of unintended consequences as the “imperious immediacy of interest”, by which he meant that someone wants the intended consequence of an action so much that he purposefully chooses to ignore any unintended effects. 

Does this sound familiar?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Community Action At Work

Cecilia Brooke, Chair of the recently-formed South Perth Residents Association, presented John McGrath, MLA for South Perth, with a petition signed by 2,169 people in support of our democratic right to have a say in how we are governed at a local level. 

Thanks to John McGrath, MLA, for taking the time to receive the petition and, in anticipation, for presenting it to the Parliament.

Text of the petition:

To the Speaker and Members of the Legislative Assembly in Parliament assembled.

We, the undersigned residents of Western Australia, respectfully call on the Government to, at the earliest opportunity, amend the Local Government Act 1995 to prevent any amalgamation of councils by a process of artificial boundary change without ratepayers having the democratic right to vote as to their acceptance or otherwise.

Your petitioners therefore respectfully request the Legislative Assembly to amend the Local Government Act of 1995 to ensure that ratepayers have the right to vote on any planned amalgamation.

Love the red outfit, Cecilia! Definitely a highlight of the photograph.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Digression from 'Reform': Walls On William

What to do with a blank wall - other than leave it to the graffiti vandals? A stroll down William Street contains some visually-stunning examples.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Blinkered Vision - Barricades in Hyde Park

Thirty years ago, it was common practice to use barriers and chicanes to control access to and use of footpaths and shared paths. The world has, however, moved on since then, with increased recognition of the need to provide access for all - but not, it seems, in the City of Vincent.

Despite Vincent's much-vaunted bikeplan and its consistent commitment to disability access, it seems there is a lack of recognition of what universal access and universal design really mean.

Last week, barriers were erected on most of the paths in Hyde Park leading from Vincent Street, presumably in response to complaints about some cyclists riding irresponsibly, especially down the hill from Vincent Street. So, to 'control' a few rogue cyclists, the City of Vincent has created impediments and hazards for all park users. 

I wonder if anyone has considered, for example, how these paths are supposed to function at times of peak usage, such as the Hyde Park Fair.
The so-called chicanes require 90-degree turns by cyclists and pedestrians alike - but almost certainly not by the problem cyclists, who will simply ride off the path and by-pass the obstructions. Indeed, almost all cyclists will find it easier to go off on the grass than to try to negotiate the obstructions that have been placed in their path. There is evidence (to the left of the picture above and in the wear on the grass to the left of the picture below) that this already happening.
For people with mobility impairments, especially those using wheelchairs or gophers, the necessary manoeuvres are difficult if not impossible. People with mobility impairments are unable to avoid the chicanes by going around them, as the surface adjacent to the path is unsuitable for their needs. These chicanes may well be in breach of the Disability Discrimination Act, as there is no convenient alternative access for people with disabilities.

Just to make things even more difficult (especially for people with vision impairments), three of the four 'chicanes' have the entry on the right of the path (rather conflicting with the legal requirement for cyclists (and the general expectation for pedestrians) to keep left on paths - but one has the entry on the left.

For children on small bicycles, often with trainer wheels, the degree of manoeuvrability required may well be beyond their capabilities - and there is a very real danger of their running straight into one of the barriers, including the horizontal bar that is about at head height for them.

For 'average' cyclists, the barriers will require them to dismount to avoid falling in making two very low speed 90-degree turns one after the other.

The 'chicanes' are even more of a hazard at night.

One of the four (the one on the diagonal path from Norfolk Street down to the eastern lake) has no lighting within 50 metres and is virtually impossible to see.

Two of the others have lights immediately adjacent - which might seem like a good idea but means that there is no light reflecting off the signage, which should be the most visible part of the barrier. These barriers are easy not to see - paradoxically because the area they are in is well lit but little of this light reflects off the structures themselves.

The fourth, on the path directly down from Norfolk Street, does have lights in both directions from the barriers, but even so, visibility is not very good.

Where's the justification?

The only 'justification' for the barriers mentioned in the City of Vincent Council Minutes is that "Chicanes have recently been used by the City of Perth on the Mount Street pedestrian overpass to great effect." No mention of what the effect has been, but, in any case, the installation and situation are entirely different. The barriers on the Mount Street bridge are on a curve and are set several metres apart (not just over one metre as in Hyde Park) so there is a reasonably straight through path that can be used at moderate speed when no other users are present. In addition, the railings of the bridge prevent users from by-passing the barriers. 

I note also that:

(a) The only reported consultation on this matter has been with the Heritage Council (from which no response was received), not with the community; 

(b) The original proposal was to have these devices at four of the entries to the park, not within the park and that the most recent report to Council (25th March, 2014) makes no mention of the locations having been changed (other than a simple plan showing intended locations, with no indication that these were not the original ones); and

(c) Of the actual locations where these devices have been installed, only one is on a path previously agreed by Council on 3rd December, 2013.

Even The Simplest Thing Is Subject to Murphy's Law

Murphy's Law states that anything that can go wrong will go wrong - including, presumably, the application of Murphy's Law - thus leading to a state of total uncertainty leading to chaos. Indeed, an extreme version even has it that anything that can't go wrong will go wrong (

Forced amalgamation of local governments will require rebranding, with new logos and the opportunity for all those 'image consultants' to foist yet more unintelligible and meaningless logos on the rest of us.

For a great take on how this gets in the way, have a look at the first episode of the ABC's new TV series, Utopia ( It's available there until 15th October 2014.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

More Letters - This Time in the West Australian

Is the West having a change of heart? Seems to be publishing a bit more on local government so-called reform lately - and not just Government puff pieces - weight of numbers and/or weight of arguments.
The West Australian, 13th August 2014

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Productivity Commission Supports Benefit-Cost Analysis - What About It, Homer?

The most recent report from the Australian Productivity Commission (on Public Infrastructure) is not by any means light reading. Nor is it specifically relevant to local government so-called reform in WA - except that it calls for openness, transparency and rigour in public investments.

Specifically, it calls for "subjecting all public infrastructure investment proposals above $50 million to rigorous cost-benefit analyses that are publicly released … prior to projects being announced".

In WA, there are some huge public investments either under way or mooted that have never been the subject of any (certainly not any published) benefit-cost analysis, but when the Minister's version of local government so-called reform is likely to cost around $100 million (a public investment in the future of local government?) surely this should be subject to the same level of assessment recommended by the Productivity Commission.

Contrast the informed and responsible recommendation of the Productivity Commission with the blasé and irresponsible approach of Local Government Minister, Tony Simpson, who happily admits that there has been no business case developed for his so-called reforms and says that the Local Government Advisory Board will assess costs and benefits after the decisions are made.

Democracy in Need of Counselling

Not my headline, but that to Joe Poprzeczny's Opinion piece in the WA Business News today. I commend it to you and, because the WA Business News is not mainstream reading for most people repeat it below. It can also be read on the WA Business News website at
Click to enlarge
or go to


I read all sorts of books for all sorts of reasons. One reason is the serendipitous finding of writing that fits.

This morning, I read the following:
"He'd seen it in others, the consequences of failing to choose companions wisely. One slightly immoral person was a problem. Two together was a catastrophe. All it took was a fateful meeting. A person who told you your meanest desire, your basest thoughts, weren't so bad. In fact, he shared them."

Consider this is the context of Barnett/Simpson on local government so-called reform and now Day/Simpson on planning and development. Whether 'immoral' ('contrary to accepted moral principles') or 'amoral' (in the sense of the ends justifying the means), what we are now seeing is a form of closed collective reinforcement of ideas and behaviours that has no place in a democratic society.

We Are Not Alone

It's sometimes difficult, in the face of mainstream media indifference, to maintain one's enthusiasm for a cause. Letters such as those in last week's Examiner newspaper are incredibly important - so keep writing and, newspaper editors, keep publishing them.
Canning Examiner, 7th August 2014

Day Joins Simpson In Simplistic Solutions to Non-Problems

More simplism from the simple souls in ministerial office.

[Simplism (noun): The tendency to oversimplify an issue or a problem by ignoring complexities or complications.]

In reality, just another attack on local governments to make life easier for the property developers.

The argument about single houses is designed to get the individuals who want to develop a family home on a single block onside - but it is a non-issue. If a development proposal complies with the state government's Residential Design Codes, the local government already has no alternative but to approve it. To say that compliant developments will be "exempt from approvals" is a nonsense, as someone has to assess that the proposed development is, in fact, compliant - and in all fairness to all concerned (but especially the neighbours) this cannot be the proponent.

However, in existing developed areas, redevelopment other than simply replacing one house on a block with another single house on the same block almost always involves non-compliance with the Codes.

There's a lot of devil in the detail yet to be announced - for example, taken literally, the statement that the "WA Planning Commission will also become the sole arbiter on structure plans guiding land use, subdivision and developments".

At one level, there is nothing new in this. Structure Plans and subdivision of land already require WAPC approval. WAPC Guidelines produced in 2012 seek to standardise the process (scope, format and content) of structure plans.

So most of this hype is about trying to paint local government as the villains, when the Minister for Planning and the WAPC already has the 'necessary' powers. It's about spuriously supporting Homer's paranoia about local government - not about actually improving the planning and development outcomes for the people of Perth.

And while I'm on the subject of outcomes (not a popular subject with planners), the Minister for Planning would achieve much more by seeking ways to get jobs where people need them. A lot of the congestion problems in Perth are a result of the planners aspirations for residential location being achieved but not those for employment location. Houses are built, but jobs don't follow - so people have to commute long distances, by car or train, to get a job.

Instead of simply colouring areas for employment on maps, it's time the WAPC and the Government found ways of encouraging businesses actually to take up that land. Alternatively, if the land is in the wrong places as far as business is concerned, the whole residential planning strategy needs to be changed to get a better meshing of residential and commercial development.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Those who surrender democracy for the quiet life will not have, nor do they deserve, either one

Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America and a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat, once stated that: "Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one."

In the context of the current debacle that the WA Government erroneously calls 'local government reform' (albeit only for the metropolitan proletariat - the rural peasants will get theirs later), I beg to restate Franklin's observation as:

Those who surrender democracy for the quiet life will not have, nor do they deserve, either one

Arrogance from WALGA and Its President

This is a long piece, but well worth reading right through.

Does WALGA really think that it is not "a publicly-accountable body paid for by ratepayers through councils"? If so, it goes some way toward explaining the difficulty in getting WALGA to reflect the views and interests of its members (

Whether publicly-accountable or not, it beggars belief that WALGA President, Troy Pickard, could ban reporters from the Post from attending the WALGA AGM - apparently on the grounds that he doesn't like what the POST has written about him. It's even worse, if true, that he has, apparently, ordered WALGA staff not to speak to the POST.

Oh! And here's another give-away. Pickard apparently said that WALGA is already involved with the government on plans to reform (for which read 'reduce the number of') country councils. Little wonder that many country councils presumably supported the AGM resolution criticising WALGA for its support of weakening the Dadour poll provisions (

Pre-Empting Process?

Hot on the heels of his non-response to questions about local government amalgamations (, Mike Nahan, in an incredible email to his electors, says that the outcome for the City of Canning has already been determined. 

What an incredible statement: "While I am well aware that the majority of local residents would like Canning to remain as it is, that option is no longer available."

This appears to mean that he has inside knowledge that the Local Government Advisory Board, despite its still supposedly being in the process of assessing proposals and submissions (including submissions to the currently-advertised 'intended recommendations'), has already determined the outcome - with the only variable being whether certain parts of Canning go to Gosnells or Melville.

Alternatively, he is actively trying to influence the people of Canning not to express their real preference to the LGAB.

It is still open to the people of Canning to restate their strong and irrevocable wish not to become part of either Melville or Gosnells - the LGAB 'intended recommendation' provides an added opportunity for them to do so. It is perfectly possible to say 'we want to stay as Canning' while still saying which of the Melville or Gosnells options is the less repugnant to you.

It is also open to you to use the submission process to object to the way the proposal artificially evades the Dadour poll provision - see also the earlier post on this blog (
Click to enlarge

WALGA Told to Represent It's Members

Not before time, the members of the WA Local Government Association have sent a clear message that the Association has got it wrong on local democracy. 

My question is why has it taken so long? It's not as if this is the first opportunity for this to happen - WALGA's State Council meets regularly during the year and is composed of delegates from each of the zones, which in turn consist of representatives of each of its constituent local governments.

Does this suggest a deficiency in WALGA's internal democracy?

The City of Nedlands made its view very clear when it pulled out of WALGA in October last year.

It would be really interesting to know who the 32 that voted against the motion were - and, especially, to ask them to publicly justify doing so to their electors and ratepayers.
Post News, 9th August 2014

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Mark McGowan Breaks His Silence

I have been critical of Opposition Leader, Mark McGowan, for his silence (at least since the Rally on 8th April) on forced local government amalgamations, but I am pleased to see his commitment to amending the Local Government Act to prevent 'boundary adjustment' ruses from being used to prevent electors having access to the poll provisions of the Act.

My concern is that 'after the next election' will be too late for the metropolitan area, unless the current legal action against the Minister for Local Government and the LGAB is successful.

I challenge Mr McGowan to make this move now, and to do so in a way that ensures it is applicable the current metropolitan proposals being considered by the Local Government Advisory Board. The Minister has said that Governor's Orders to give effect to changes in local governments will not have effect until July 2015, which gives a year to do so.

We know that some Liberal Members of Parliament are unhappy about what is being done to local government in their name. And we know that the Nationals do not trust Simpson when he says that he has "no plans for country reform at this stage" - having previously said, in Bunbury earlier this year, the country areas are next.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Lunch With Ned Flanders - Still No Answers

I've just returned from lunch with WA Treasurer, Dr Mike Nahan, and a couple of hundred other people. The occasion was a public lecture sponsored by the John Curtin Institute of Public Policy and the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre and the topic was 'Moving towards a more effective Federation' - thanks to those two organisations for hosting this event - not to mention providing lunch.

Dr Nahan spoke at length about the damaging effect of the Federal Government's forcing change on the states (eg health funding and seniors concessions) and how these changes and aspects of the current taxation regime (most notably the fact that WA only gets 38% of the GST revenue raised in this state) work to the severe detriment of subsidiarity.

Subsidiarity is the concept that a central authority should have a subsidiary (that is, a supporting, rather than a subordinate) function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level. 

Now, it happens that I agree with much of what Dr Nahan said - but I was disturbed his lack of acknowledgment that the argument has to work both ways.

I asked him if it was not hypocritical to be requiring local governments to spend $100 million on forced local government amalgamations without any assessment of the benefits - and when experience in other parts of Australia and overseas strongly suggests that any anticipated benefits are almost entirely illusory.

His response, to the extent there was one, amounted to (a) stating that local government was no more than a part of State government (on the somewhat tenuous grounds that local government is not mentioned in the constitution) and therefore they could do whatever they liked and (b) asserting that there were substantial efficiencies to be gained - without providing any evidence to support it.

Joe Poprzeczny followed up with a question relating to broken promises on forcing amalgamations. Nahan's response was that they were not forcing local governments to amalgamate but putting pressure on them to come up changes. 

Breathtakingly, he followed this up by saying that we should not criticise them until they actually do it. This beggars the imagination. If we did that, we would rightly be criticised by the government for not speaking up during the process and told we had missed our opportunity to have a say in the process.

Reading between the verbal lines, this supports my contention that the Local Government Advisory Board will distance itself from the ministerial proposals to the greatest extent possible.

Bottom line, though, is that no matter how many times we ask the question we never get an answer on what the benefits will be.

Homer's Real Agenda

Here, at last, is the real Simpson agenda - to abolish or emasculate local government. He wants uniformity across local governments - so local governments become nothing more than rubber stamps for what State government wants.

Samuel Johnson said in 1775 that "patriotism is the last resort of a scoundrel". I am inevitably forced to observe that "consistency is the last resort of the unimaginative and uniformity is the last resort of the unintelligent".

Does Homer really think that the same rules should apply in rural Serpentine-Jarrahdale as in inner-urban Vincent?

Does he not realise that higher densities require different management of development and activity?

Most important, does he have no concern with diversity of amenity and experience across the metropolitan area?

The issues raised by Simpson are a mix of State requirements (through the Residential Design Codes), local laws (not bylaws, which went out when the 1995 Local Government Act came in) and local government policies.

The Residential Design Codes have effect through the Town Planning Scheme, which also has to be approved by the Minister for Planning. In some cases (eg Subiaco Pavilion), the Minister for Planning has forced a local government to change its Town Planning Scheme to enable the approval of developments beyond the scale allowed by the existing scheme - which he or his predecessor approved in the first place.