When I first embarked on this project my expectations were totally different from what I eventually discovered.
I was aware that corporate Perth was apathetic when it came to local government elections but I thought that some business, notably retailers, would have been over-represented.
How else, I thought, could a council be convinced to spend time, effort and money promoting shopping in Perth when most of its ratepayers are not engaged in retail activity.
How wrong I was. It seems retailers are among the poorest voters in the city – and that’s pretty bad when you consider the benchmark set by the average business – three quarters of which don’t bother to register and 90 per cent of which fail to vote.
Despite the strong retail focus of the city, retailers are simply not participants in the election process because many city outlets are offshoots of chains with decision-making command located elsewhere.
So getting more businesses to participate in the electoral process may not change the way the City of Perth goes about its business. Big corporates are traditionally averse to interfering in Perth’s council matters and the key business groups to have shown concern in this field, the WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Property Council, have mainly raised the issue of promoting retail trade.
I think this is a lost opportunity for business in general.
Some of the great cities of the world have mayors and other public officials who go into bat for the key industries of their electorate...
While I don’t expect instant change, wouldn’t it be great if the City of Perth could have a credible voice on financial services regulation or lead the vision to make Perth a resources hub.
These are fields that dominate great swaths of city real estate, and this role is one we see played by councils and mayors in big capitals such as London or New York.
Sometimes that even includes taking them to task, as we have seen in with New York district attorney (an elected official) taking on Wall Street and the insurance broking sector.
Why shouldn’t the City of Perth be a voice for industry? Perth is not just the Australian home of the resources community, it is an international base. Our resources sector could sometimes do with a community-linked voice that best understands its role as the powerhouse of investment in this State.
It is also worth noting that the City of Perth is not the only electorate where voter numbers appear disproportionate to the rates paid.
Bunbury is another city that appears to have similarities, though I have yet to closely examine the reasons behind this.
For the record, my calculations show revenue per City of Perth voter was $19,254 and the City of Bunbury is $11,137.
In comparison, the City of Stirling stands at just $3,278.