View From WA: Archaic local government system must be brought into the 21st Century

#2b2; padding: 8px 8px 8px 8px; margin: 16px 16px 16px 16px;">The post below comes from Mary Jenkins, a West Australian activist who has fought against corrupt pro-developement local governments. From her own experience she has drawn the conclusion that amalgamation of smaller local councils into larger councils and greater intervention by the West Australian government is a means by which this corrupting influence. In a recent newspaper article, Mary Jenkins actually applauded the enforced amalgamations of the Beattie Labor Government. Of course we consider this view to be misguided. Whilst, in Queensland, there are examples where the State Government has acted against local government to protect communities against excesses of some extremely pro-development Local Governments such as the Caloundra City Council, the reverse i s more often the case. One such example is in 2006, when a golf links and housing development in the Blackall Range above the Kondolila National Park, which would have threatened the waterfalls within was stopped by the Beattie Government. Queensland Government laws have been used to prosecute Councilors on the Gold Coast City Council to prosecute councillors who have corruptly accepted election campaign funds from developers without having made this known to electors. Nevertheless, the overall trajectory of the Queensland state Government is to disempower local communities so that they are unable to stand up against developers. That is why the Queensland Government backed the same Caloundra Shire Council, including with a police invasion, in 2005, when it approved the building of a new Woolworths Supermarket in Maleny's main street above a creek containing a platypus colony (see ). 80% of Maleny resident opposed the building of the Woolworths supermarket. Now Maleny residents face the prospect of having common land, previously purchased by the Calaoundra shire council for the benefit of the local community, being handed to developers so that an 18 link golf course and condominiums can be built. Queensland is almost unique in the western world in having laws which oblige local governments to compensate developers for the loss of anticipated profits should developments not be approved. For these and many other reasons given on this web site, disagree with Mary Jenkins' view that giving greater powers to State Governments or amalgamating smaller councils into larger councils is a panacea to the problems of local government. In the case of the Caloundra City Council, it needs to be broken up rather than increased in size. Nevertheless, Mary raises some interesting points and it is clear that may of her ultimate goals are similar to ours. - JS WA local governments stand to lose from crash in US finance markets It would appear that many local governments are about to take a loss in the financial market according to the Financial Review Monday 6th and Thursday 9th August 2007 and has since blown out in the Media. This is just the beginning! It is RAMS today what next tomorrow? The Federation investment group created by Grange security owned by giant US bank Lehman Brothers did a hard sell to at least 43 councils to invest their 'surplus' funds in Federation Collateral Debt Obligations. This exposed funds to the US mortgage market which is in free fall today. Shares are now worth 30 cents in the dollar. Nationally local councils hold more than AU$10 billion in investments. The affect of losses will results in an increase in rates and cut backs in local public works and services. Melville Council was identified in the Financial Review as investing $3 million in Federation. What about others councils in WA? Where did they invest? Why have they invested in a volatile US market and not in Australian markets that would boost Australian business? Ratepayers have a right to know why their rates will increase this year. Is it because of poor money investments and management of surplus funds? Who pays for any shortfall? The ratepayers! Where is the accountability? WA state Government must take responsibility for accounting practices of local governments The important point is that the investment of surplus local council funds is governed by the Local Government ACT code of accounting practices for local government and specific ministerial orders. Is the minister responsible or local councils for failures? (is it just tough bickies for ratepayers!) Where the Act fails to protect citizens is - the management of finances is left to individual local governments? discretion. Are they qualified to make such decisions? Are council financial committees biased or influenced in any way? The archaic local government system drawn up at Federation must be brought into the 21st Century. Restructuring is necessary but Local Government Association president Bill Mitchell has his head in the sand when he claims there are no problems with the present system of local government. Is he protecting his and his mates? jobs and the inadequate Local Government ACT? Mary Jenkins Spearwood West Australia. ph 08 94182117

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