Gifts, travel list disappointment for WA Local Government Association

THE WA Local Government Association (WALGA) is disappointed it was not involved in a State Government decision about council registers for gifts and travel.

“We are… extremely disappointed not to have been provided with the opportunity to gauge our members’ response and contribute to the proposed amendments, as there has been no formal consultation from the State on this,” WALGA president Lynne Craigie said.

In October, Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi was found to have not declared a $36,000 BHP-Billiton paid trip to the Beijing Olympics.

After introduction to State Parliament of the new City of Perth Act recently, it was amended so all councillors would have to disclose gifts and travel within 10 days online from July 1 next year. Mrs Craigie said WALGA supported transparency in local government and did not see any problems with the changes or creating online lists, which could help some councillors with their jobs.

A gift list has operated at Claremont Council for about 10 years,

Claremont Mayor Jock Barker said an online list was a “simple thing to do” because he and Claremont councillors did not accept gifts.

“There’s nothing new in it, but perhaps a hard copy would be also better for some people to view at the council,” Mr Barker said.

The Act is now awaiting Legislative Council approval.

Local Government Minister Tony Simpson said his discussions with “interested parties” had provided him with enough evidence, including those gift lists already operating around WA, of an “overwhelming desire” for declarations to be made online in 10 days.

“While the current Local Government Act says councils need to make certain information available Monday to Friday, and between 9 and 5, quite frankly, this information could and should be available online 24/7,” Mr Simpson said.

There will be no changes to the rules about what gifts and travel must be declared, and their value.