YOUR report that the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale president intends to enforce Standing Orders with heavy penalties against dissenting electors signals a shift to emulate the City of Armadale’s successful approach to suppressing openness and accountability.
Since 2002 when draconian penalties were introduced, Armadale electors have been afraid to speak out to challenge or query their council’s decisions.
Few citizens are willing to risk prosecution by attending council or committee meetings and even fewer are prepared to ask questions.
The public gallery is routinely empty –not through apathy but through fear.
On March 23 last year, council unanimously resolved to increase penalties to $5000 per day for infringing Standing Orders, further entrenching council’s longstanding tough stance against dissenters.
Those few electors willing to stand up and query council’s decisions are now being sidelined by procedures.
The Local Government Act directly grants the chairman absolute powers to ban any individual, or questions from any individual, or questions about any subject.
This power is over and above Standing Orders and cannot be limited or overturned by council.
Regrettably, the minister and his department endorse this form of autocratic government so the electors of Serpentine Jarrahdale may look forward to a torrid experience as they lose their freedom of political speech and learn subservience.
DENNIS GRIMWOOD, Mt Richon.