Wednesday 27 August 2014

Hansard of the Legislative Council


BILL 2014 (No. 19)

Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr Deputy President, I am always interested when I am vacillating on a subject like this see what I am going to say. I hope other people are, too. This is not a subject that I am embracing now. Long ago, when the member for Windermere came into this House, when you came here a year after me, 11 years ago, you were promoting this idea. Whether you can remember that conversation and whether it was a private conversation or whether it was on the Floor of Parliament, and what you were talking about, I think we might have even been electing you as President - not that you were putting yourself forward when you first walked into this place - but you broached the subject of being able to put your hand up and to take on the job even though you were new to the Chamber.

That was a pause for thought for me. I tossed it over in my mind and I did not agree with you. I felt that, as someone had expressed here also, that you need that experience. You need to understand the protocols, the nuances of local government, of state government, of federal government. To come straight into that top leadership role of looking after the processes of legislation, as in our case, there is a lot to pick up. There is a lot of stumbling that can be done through those very early stages. Of course some people are quick learners. They can manage that and have been used to making decisions. That was my previous thought.

Coming here today, I have the West Tamar Council with 15 000 voters and then I have the Launceston City Council where I have 9 000 voters. I have a foot in both camps. It reminds me of an old story of Sue Becker. She worked in Launceston and people thought she lived in Hobart. She said, 'I have a foot in both camps and heaven help Campbell Town'.

I am in a bit of a bind here because the West Tamar Council moved a motion and the Launceston City Council voted against it. I am trying to find a way through this by listening to the people with so much experience in local government. I have discussed it with the member for Western Tiers, but he has ducked for cover in the President's chair.

I was interested in what you had to say. Everyone here has huge experience in local government. I have been trying to find a way through with the contributions members have made and I am no closer to a decision because there are such compelling arguments from either side of the debate. I have thought about a few of the things you have been saying and I want to express those thoughts.

Ms Rattray - It is a lot to do with the size of councils as well. Most of mine are small, whereas others have much larger councils.

Mr FINCH - There are so many elements at play here - the talk about the bigger picture of local government and the politics involved. The member for Rumney is concerned about some bigger changes that need to be made rather than just tinkering at the edges.

Mrs Armitage - As the member for Elwick said, perhaps we should be looking at reviewing the whole act. I have always believed that if in doubt, do not. I have doubts so I will not be.

Mr FINCH - I am still none the wiser. I am still trying to find where I am going with this.

Mr Gaffney - That did happen in 2006. There is a working group at the moment looking at other reforms already, so some of the work we have discussed is happening now.

Mrs Armitage - Perhaps this would be something that could come to committee A or B. That would be something worthwhile that we could spend some time on.

Mr FINCH - It would not matter which committee it went to, there would still be the voices of experience who could take part in that. I am also looking at this vote of 25:22; albeit close, it is still a vote in favour. That is democracy and what we were talking about today with two-thirds of members of parliament voting. You need to be democratic and the majority is more than half.

Mr Dean - If you look at the number of councils voting for it, it is far greater than that. It is weighted; Launceston City Council, for instance, has four votes and the bigger councils have four votes.

Mr Valentine - It was a balance of councils, large and small, on each side. That is according to the CEO, but we do not know the exact split.

Mrs Armitage - Perhaps the member standing could move to send this to committee A or B.

Mr FINCH - We will see as I get further down and express those observations I have made. At 25:22, again that democratic vote is compelling for me. I also hear the political argument that you are talking about, about not wanting politics to pervade local government, but we have independents and people with philosophical beliefs and we know generally where their vote is going to go. You would hope that is the case in local government as well. When you talk about this danger of political influence, my wife was reading the Examiner newspaper and she saw an advertisement on the front page for a candidate for local government. She said, 'That looks like a political ad from a political party.' I looked and there was no mention of any political party. But down the bottom was a name that was definitely of a political bent. That is a little bit of subterfuge. Rather than saying this is a political candidate, it is sending a message out to the party supporters that this is the person we want to see get up in respect of the political agenda we want to bring into the council. I might be reading too much into that, but that is an observation I made during the week.

I also hear the argument about four years. If somebody wants to come in and put themselves up for mayor or deputy mayor and they do not have the commitment you would like to see - if they miss out on the mayor's job they have to sit, frustrated, at a local council level for four years.

Ms Forrest - Wouldn't they build their profile and give the community a chance to see if they would be a good mayor? They could try again if they were really keen.

Mr FINCH - Yes. I want to get to something you said, that I also enunciated at the declaration of the poll - something that I firmly believe. I underlined it. Electors are not stupid and if we take them for granted and if we tend to put them in that box, we pay a price for it. The electors are going to put those people into office. The electors have to decide where their vote goes.

If somebody puts their name up, forget about their agenda, whether it is political or personal - whether they are megalomaniacal and want to bang a few heads together - it is up to them to prove their credentials to the electors. Show them who they are, and then the electors make up their minds.

Mrs Armitage - Bear in mind, member for Rosevears, that not every council is a member of LGAT. One of the other large councils, Hobart, would have had an equivalent number of votes to Launceston, which would have possibly changed the vote. We have to mindful that not every council is a member of LGAT.

Mr DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Members, we need to focus on the principle here. Any of these matters can be fleshed out in committee.

Mr FINCH - Thank you. I am not trying to encourage discussion - it is just occurring around me. I am no nearer to a decision. It is an interesting debate we are having here, and there are many implications for any decision we are likely to make. A decision which, on the surface, appears to be a simple one. But when you look at the nuances and what is underlying the decision and the impact it is going to have - the implications of the decision - it is an interesting debate for us to be having.

I can see the member for Derwent. Are you going to make a contribution?

Mr Farrell - Probably, now you have flagged it.

Mr FINCH - I will conclude and then see if I can come to a decision