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City of Swan council.

Red and blue no place in chamber

By Claire Ottaviano

AN attempt to force Swan councillors to declare their political party ties on a public register was shut down by the majority of Council at the September meeting.

All but one other councillor present, Cr Tanya Richardson, objected to Cr Ian Johnson’s motion asking staff to investigate the feasibility of establishing a register of councillor’s political party memberships.

“What brings membership of a political party into the realms of impartiality interest is because the purpose of a political party is for members to support common objectives,” Cr Johnson said.

“To go beyond membership and actually voting together in council to jointly support common objectives would mean that the members of the political party need to declare an interest.

“If councillors are caucusing before Council particularly on planning matters, how can council ensure these interests are declared if we don’t know which councillors are members of political parties, that’s why we need a register.”

He claimed to be in possession of information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and quoted comments made in an online chat forum referring to the “libs” [Liberals] having the balance of power on Swan council.

Cr Johnson had previously tried to have councillors reveal if they were members of the Liberal party during debate at the August council meeting which subsequently led to him being reprimanded by the Mayor and silenced.

“Politics should not come into local government and that’s the entire purpose of having a register,” Cr Johnson said.

Several other councillors fired back.

“In Australia everyone has the right to vote for and support what they believe in,” Cr Mel Congerton said.

“Your political beliefs are a protected characteristic… meaning it is against the law for someone to treat you unfairly, discriminate against you or bully you because of your political beliefs or activities as long as it is within the law.

“I don’t think this recommendation put to council is right.”

Cr Andrew Kiely said his membership with the Labor party had no value on his decisions inside the chamber.

“I come into this room to make decisions on verges and sheds and roads and they’re not things the Liberal party or the Labor party want to get involved in,” he said.

“There is enough divide in the room without trying to label each other.

“We don’t need any more of that.

“We just need to reach out to each other and get on with each other and not try and find reasons to further divide the chamber.

“I’ve enjoyed working with members who I know are of the Liberal party and I think they make great councillors.

“It doesn’t help the community to start wearing red or blue jackets.”

The motion failed 2-11 with Crs Kiely, Congerton, Jennifer Catalano, Rod Henderson, Charlie Zannino, Bryce Parry, Patty Jones, Cate McCollough, John McNamara, Mayor Kevin Bailey and Deputy Mayor David Lucas against.

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