Should councillors be forced to disclose political affiliations?

Wanneroo councillor and unsuccessful Pearce candidate Linda Aitken volunteered the information she is a member of the Liberal Party but should all elected members be forced to disclose affiliations with political parties? File picture: Yanchep News Online

COUNCILS have long been a training ground for people who have political ambitions so should local government councillors or candidates be forced to disclose their political affiliations?

One of the election and community engagement reforms proposed to empower ratepayers to participate in local democracy and decision-making as part of the McGowan Government’s local government reforms is that the basis for why a candidate is eligible to run will be required to be publicly disclosed.

But that does not include any requirement for candidates to disclose their political affiliations.

This week Local Government Minister John Carey said the Local Government Act does not prohibit political parties from endorsing candidates or prevent local governments requiring elected members to publicly disclose membership to a political party.

Mr Carey said his personal view was that bringing in a requirement to disclose party affiliations could have the perverse outcome of inviting more party politics into local government, with parties forced into a situation of endorsing candidates.

“I would rather focus my attention on encouraging people with great ideas and passion for their community to put their hands up, irrespective of political affiliations,’’ he said.

Similarly, Opposition Local Government spokesman and Moore MLA Shane Love said he did not think political affiliations were relevant to the performance of a councillor’s role.

“Forcing a declaration of affiliation will lead to the formal intrusion of political parties in council politics, not something I or the Opposition wish to see happen,’’ he said.

On June 2 after the City of South Perth decided to force councillors to disclose their political party affiliations Mr Love said councillors should be elected by the community based on their commitment and capacity to serve their local community rather than political connections.

“Western Australians are capable of choosing their elected members to act in the best interest of residents and ratepayers and they don’t need an extra layer of bureaucracy red tape to guide their decision,’’ he said.

Mr Carey said if the City of South Perth wished to implement disclosure of political affiliation requirements, that was a matter for them.

“I am focussed on delivering practical local government reforms, including other measures to elections to give ratepayers a greater say in who represents them on their local council,’’ he said.

Mr Love said he had not seen evidence that one of the key pieces of information ratepayers and residents wanted to know in the lead up to local government elections was whether a local government candidate was a member of a political party.

“I have not seen evidence that this is a key determinant of the vote,’’ he said.

“Being a member of a political party is not an indication that you are running on behalf of the party.

“I firmly believe the focus of any councillor should be on outcomes for the community. “Forcing a declaration of party membership would take the focus off what the individual candidate wishes to achieve in their role for the community and instead put the spotlight on party politics.’’