Freo's View

LOCAL GOVERNMENT IS NOT JUST (ABOUT) RUBBISH

Posted in australia day, city of fremantle, local government, politics, Uncategorized by freoview on July 31, 2017

 

With the Fremanle local government election just two months and three weeks away I have been contemplating what the role of local government actually is.

Some people in our community believe it is all about delivering services, collecting rubbish, cleaning streets, etc. but is there a bigger picture our Elected Members should also be involved in?

I personally believe there is because local politicians are the closest to grassroots democracy and should inspire state and federal governments.

I asked Dr. Martin Drum, Professor of Politics and International Relations and Chief of Staff of the Vice Chancellor at Fremantle Notre Dame University and this was his reply:

“Elected representatives have both a deliberative and representative function. We focus a lot on the deliberative part, where our MPs and councillors are empowered to make decisions on our behalf. They decide what proposed developments can and cant proceed, they decide what does and doesn’t get funded. Some people argue that this is all our elected representatives should do.

But our representatives are also expected to represent the community which elects them. In electing them, we have authorised them to do this. Representation is arguably even more important than deliberation because it helps shape the identity of a community. Our councillors are the voice of the people they represent. If you ask me, its especially important for elected representatives to speak up for people who dont have the capacity to represent themselves.

Fremantle is a special part of Western Australia. It’s a little different to other areas. Local representatives need to speak to this difference. That is why the council, the sum body of local representatives in Fremantle, should feel free to speak up about the date of Australia Day, especially if their community has communicated this to them.

Elected representatives get judged not only by the decisions they make but also by how effective they are at representing people.

Whether a particular policy position is a good or bad one (such as moving Australia Day, opposing Roe 8, banning plastic bags) is up to the Fremantle community to judge, but there is no doubt that elected representatives are entitled to speak about them. We expect that people we elect become a voice of the people they represent, so they should speak up.

Those who are running as alternatives should likewise feel free to express their views on these issues. Competition for political office is healthy and should be welcomed. We then expect the public to judge them on that come the next election. That’s why I think being accountable and transparent is important.

Personally I always hope that debate focuses on the issues rather than the person, but that’s a pretty idealistic position these days.”

There is no doubt though that Council needs to have its priorities right and that people in the community rightly complain when basic maintenance is not done. One has to consider and acknowledge though that the day to day running of the City of Fremantle is done by the administration.

There is also an absolute and non-negotiable need for excellent community consultation, which was lacking on the Australia Day changes. This should have been handled much better as it polarised the community and became a political, and sadly sometimes racist, debate.

The positive thing about the initiative of Fremantle Council is that the Australia Day date and plastic bags ban now have become a national debate and that looks like pretty healthy democracy to me.

I agree with Dr Martin Drum that the debate should focus on issues rather than on the person. Respectful dialogue is essential to move forward together, and I especially am aware that it is not always easy to keep that in mind when one has a passion for Freo.

 

Roel Loopers

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  1. Rob Fittock said, on July 31, 2017 at 11:58 am

    good piece


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