Sunday, 25 September 2011

An Independent Voice

Last week, political analyst and Notre Dame senior lecturer Dr Martin Drum was quoted on page 19 of the Herald talking about the benefits of diversity on council.

"You want that competition, otherwise councillors could become complacent.  I'm not saying that council is doing a bad job, but you need that healthy debate, as well as diversity on council so you get better outcomes."  Dr Drum said.

I wholeheartedly agree that a council should reflect the diversity of the community it represents, and I believe that the same applies to council elections.  At the beginning of this campaign, one of the most common questions I was asked was why I didn't switch to a ward with less candidates.

Apart from the fact that it's extremely important to me to run in the ward in which I live, to me a fair and honest contest is nothing to be afraid of.  Being elected councillor is a privilege - a huge privilege - and one that should be earned.

Every candidate should be prepared to work for the votes they get, and ready to prove and test the merit of their ideas.  That happens naturally as a result of a good contest.  Sure, first past the post can mean that candidates with similar opinions can split votes, but I don't think its necessary to nanny voters to the extent that the field needs to be thinned out so that voters are presented with only one or two options.

I know not all Fremantle candidates, or indeed councillors, necessarily share this opinion with me, but I believe it's an essential part of the democratic process.  And like good old Winston Churchill once said, “Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

A 'green' council?

My wife called my attention to a valid point about party politics in local government after reading a particular paragraph of the article, which ran as follows:

With Fremantle already dubbed a 'green council' Dr Drum is concerned debate could go out the window if more "green members" are elected.

My wife, after reading this, said, "So how are we supposed to know who's a 'green' and who's independent if the candidate chooses not to mention it?"

It was, I believe a very good question, and one without a good answer.  In state and federal elections, candidates' party affiliations are made clear on the ballot paper, but there's no such disclosure necessary in local government elections.

I am not categorically against anyone with an interest in a political party running for Council, but I do believe that the best local government councillors are the ones who serve the interests of the people they represent, exclusively - not those also serving their party, nor those who want to use the City of Fremantle to trampoline into a state or federal political career.

So how can voters tell who they're really voting for?  Asking the question seems to be the only option open to us.  I'm happy to state for the record that I'm completely independent - what you see is really what you get.

Do we really need any City Ward residents on Council?

With both Donna Haney and John Dowson standing down, there will not be a single City Ward resident on Council unless I'm elected.  (I've based that on the electoral roll.)  Given that redevelopment of the city centre is a major priority for Council in the next decade, I believe that it's vital that city centre residents have a voice on council at this moment in time.

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