Legal challenge to Premier’s merger plan

‘Succumbing to an express or an implied threat of undesirable consequences may be a betrayal of council members’ duties to their district,’ Claremont lawyers McLeods, a major legal adviser to WA councils, told councillors considering replies to proposed new borders last week.

‘It may even be open to Court challenge as a decision improperly made under dictation or direction of another.’

When asked about councils’ opposition to his plans in an interview earlier this month and in Parliament two weeks ago, Mr Barnett said councils were a ‘subset’ of State Government which could abolish the authorities and put in commissioners.

‘My strong advice is to leave the Parliamentary process to me,’ Local Government Minister Tony Simpson wrote to Peppermint Grove president Rachel Thomas last week.

‘It is important to recognise that irrespective of the outcome of that conjecture, the current Local Government Act already provides the authority and legislative basis to effect recommended boundary changes.’

Mrs Thomas, whose ratepayers have rejected the Government’s proposed G7 super council in the western suburbs, said she interpreted the letter as a ‘recommendation’ and not a threat.

McLeods said any Government direction that councils should ‘obey their political masters’ had ‘limited truth’ because local government was older than the Westminster Parliamentary system and there was nothing in the Local Government Act giving Mr Simpson power to tell councils about their functions or powers.

‘There is a strong case that it would be improper for councillors to vote in favour of the recommendation of amalgamation unless satisfied it would be in the best interests of the electors,’ McLeods said.