Swan chief executive Stephen Cain takes over the stage of speaker Kevin Bartholomew. Picture: Guanhao Cheng

Bartholomew's bureaucracy battle

The Swan Chamber of Commerce Hour of Power turned tense with discussions on bureaucracy becoming a proving ground.
June 13, 2024
Guanhao Cheng

SWAN Chamber of Commerce’s Hour of Power ended in a tense confrontation between a business owner and a representative of the very bureaucracy he spoke against only moments earlier.

Commercial Bar and Kitchen owner Kevin Bartholomew and Hanssen Construction executive director Gerry Hanssen presented on their own experiences dealing with bureaucracy, during the morning session.

Mr Bartholomew was and continues to be involved in a year-long saga finding resolutions for the major development outside his business, as reported in Bar owner’s Metronet misery.

At the talk, he spoke about the confusing communication process, changes to agreed terms, and inaction when dealing with bureaucrats, among other concerns.

Later, the two speakers shared the stage during Q&A time and fielded a few questions before City of Swan chief executive officer Stephen Cain stood and introduced himself to the room.

Mr Cain then approached the front stage addressing points Mr Bartholomew made, which was met with resistance.

Mr Bartholomew said he wanted to make it very clear it was a question slot for Hour of Power speakers and not a platform for Mr Cain’s announcements.

“Do you have a question or not?” he said.

“It’s not a sales pitch; it’s question time for us.”

Mr Cain said he wanted to provide explanations and answers to some of the points Mr Bartholomew made during his talk.

“There are a couple of things that were said this morning that I think are very important. Firstly, even governments struggle with bureaucracy,” he said.

“There are parts under control of Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority, DevelopmentWA.

“We look at issues like Cale Street, which connects on to two roads controlled by Main Roads WA, so, the city is trying to engage with these other bureaucrats ourselves.”

Mr Bartholomew challenged Mr Cain’s promises of returning carparks to the front his business, demanding specific numbers and locations, as this was a key issue affecting business capacity.

Mr Cain could not provide the exact figures without notice, but said he was there to help and listen to Mr Bartholomew and would keep in contact about it.

“I’m saying if you genuinely want help, I’m offering it as part of this engagement,” he said.

“I can’t undo what’s been done.”

Mr Hanssen cut into the dialogue and said it was important to keep all levels connected and working together to make change happen.

“I do have to have friends in the bureaucracy at the end of the day,” he said.

“In each council, I have to win those particular people over to work with me.

“If you can find the right people to work with you, it can make a difference.”

Mr Bartholomew didn’t disagree with Mr Hanssen but said his business was being uprooted by the impacts along his street front and the bureaucratic side had been difficult to navigate.

“That’s fine but we’re in survival mode; we’re going to get the whole road dug up in front of us,” he said.

“That piece of paper that we sent over a year ago asked, ‘What do we do when the road gets dug up?’ Nobody’s told us yet.

“It’s fine to say (the project’s) ending in September; but we’ve already had disruption for a year. That’s reality.”

Mr Cain had suggested in an email that Mr Bartholomew direct customers to parking bays from the NDIS next-door or the parking on Yelverton Drive.

Mr Bartholomew wasn’t satisfied with Mr Cain’s solutions and said they weren’t “realistic options”, calling for the return of streetside parking bays removed during the project.

Mr Cain said they would return but could not give an exact place or number during the moment, estimating about 120 bays returning.

Nearing the end, Mr Cain spoke about arranging an event where Swan Chamber of Commerce members could meet with the executive team and the mayor to talk about a path forward that resolves the community’s issues.

Swan Chamber of Commerce president Mike Matich confirmed with Echo News they were in talks with the city to organise an event where issues could be further addressed.

“We’ve agreed to it being an almost speed dating style event,” he said.

“We’ll likely get the executives and the mayor in a panel to explain their roles and give people an opportunity to fire questions to them.

“The different areas can then come together to help problem solve.”

Mr Matich said he also wanted to commend the city for being present at the Hour of Power despite the confronting nature of the topic discussed.

“The CEO did front up to quite a confronting group of people but stood up there and actually faced the questions,” he said.

After the event, Mr Bartholomew said he was disappointed in the disruption to question time.

“The CEO from the City of Swan took the floor at the beginning of the question time and continued speaking until the session ended, leaving no opportunity for questions or discussion,” he said.

“This was a crucial moment for our business, the Commercial Bar and Kitchen, to voice our concerns and seek support regarding the severe impacts of the New Midland Station construction project on our operations.

“The lack of dialogue was disappointing and underscored the challenges we face in dealing with bureaucratic processes that often overlook the immediate needs and voices of local businesses.”

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