Legal challenge to Govt power

‘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 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.’

Mr Barnett said councils were a ‘subset’ of the 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.

However, 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, arguable case that it would be improper for council members to vote in favour of the Minister’s recommendation of amalgamation unless they are satisfied that it would be in the best interests of the electors,’ McLeods said.