CITY of Swan councillors have criticised an email sent by the WA Liberal Party endorsing candidates for the upcoming local government election.
Liberal Party Swan Valley branch president Trevor Hancock sent out an email last week to party members endorsing five candidates who he believed would “best serve the community”.
The email has created upset with some candidates, who believe the move was unethical.
Councillor David Fardig, who is up for re-election this month, was one of six candidates endorsed in the email, but said he was angered to be included on the list.
He said there had been no discussion or consent given to the Liberal Party to endorse him and believed the tactic was “political manipulation” to create division between councillors.
“I felt like it compromised me,” he said.
“I am apolitical and want nothing to do with any political party, and I feel that the Liberal Party is trying to drive a wedge between current councillors.”
Cr Fardig said he had been a councillor for 24 years and had never accepted an invitation to run or join a political party.
“My only concern has always been my community and serving my residents and ratepayers,” he said.
“I’m supporting the Mayor Mick Wainwright for Altone ward and the candidates who live in the wards, and are focused on the interests of their community.”
Peter Lyndon-James, Rashelle Predovnik, Frank Alban, Darryl Trease and Bryce Parry were also endorsed in the email.
Mr Hancock declined to comment on the email.
A spokesperson from the WA Electoral Commission said it was not appropriate for it to comment on issues in the political domain as an impartial authority, but there was nothing that prevented political parties or interest groups from endorsing candidates.
Murdoch University political lecturer Ian Cook said it was not the first time a political party had endorsed candidates in local government, but said the reasons behind it were worrying.
“My main fear is that local government is being used as a training ground for future politicians and as a way for former ministers and members to maintain a profile in the community,” he said.
“There is the danger they are involved not because they are committed to local government, but because they are committed to their careers, which is troubling.”
Cr Kevin Bailey said local government was about serving the community, not self interest.
“There are three reasons people run for council,” he said.
“Ego, a vested interest, including self-interest, party politics and an axe to grind, and those who genuinely wanted to serve their community.
“If you’re there for the first two, you don’t belong in local government.”
Cr David McDonnell said a political party publicly urging ratepayers to vote for certain candidates and endorsing others that will tow the line has no place in WA local government.
“The integrity of local government at its core is the fact it remains apolitical,” he said.
“The Liberal Party is doing everything it can to stack local governments throughout the state to undermine the current State Government’s ability to get local projects off the ground, which sets a very worrying precedence and puts desperately needed community projects in jeopardy.”