Council looks, feels different

THE recent elections have changed the look and feel of the City of Perth council, possibly for many years to come.

Deputy Lord Mayor challenger Michael Sutherland has already said he will “most likely” run for Lord Mayor in four years’ time.

Incumbent Peter Nattrass has indicated that this will be his last term.

The two-man challenge for the position of deputy Lord Mayor was always going to result in an all-male team as the formal face of council.

However, the result — Bert Tudori as winner — is also viewed by some as a significant shift.

Mr Tudori, who describes himself as a former disgruntled ratepayer and  property owner, has had many scraps with Dr Nattrass, and is a very different personality from Nattrass-supporting former deputy, Judy McEvoy.

Lisa Scaffidi – one to emphasise factional independence – drew the most support from electors, renominating for her first full term after winning a by-election called to replace the late Noel Semmens.

Electors also changed the gender balance, voting in new council members Rob Butler and Max Kay, to replace Jennifer MacGill who chose not to run for another term, and Tess Stroud who came in sixth out of nine councillor candidates.

Mr Kay adds entertainment industry expertise to the council, and Mr Butler, general manager for an engineering firm, brings the experience of sinking the Perth to Fremantle rail line around Subiaco station. He was also a Subiaco councillor.

Both the campaign and subsequent events have reignited claims of strong factional splits within council.

The campaign was considered by many as atypical, in terms of across-the-board backing for multiple candidates, and the high number of Lord Mayoral candidates.

It threw factions out the door, Mr Butler claimed, pointing out that he had the support of Lord Mayoral candidates Dr Nattrass and Chas Hopkins, in addition to that of Janet Davidson, Judy McEvoy and Lisa Scaffidi. But Dr Nattrass, Ms McEvoy and Mr Sutherland also backed Ms Stroud and would-be newcomer Vivienne George.

Last week Mr Butler challenged persistent perceptions of strong factional activity by nominating Mr Sutherland for external board positions. Mr Sutherland, Ms McEvoy and Dr Nattrass, who voted against Bert Tudori being deputy Lord Mayor, can be relied upon to act in opposition to the six other councillors, some say, and vice versa. Mr Kay, who said he believed there was no point to dirty tricks during a campaign or on council, said part of the reason he wanted to become a councillor was because of the reported back-biting.

Mr Kay said he believed he could be a calming influence on what he had heard, and could “pour oil on troubled waters”.

However, Ms McEvoy, who supported Mr Kay, Mr Butler, Ms George and Ms Stroud in the campaign, maintains 90 per cent of the decisions of the former council were unanimous, and Mrs Davidson also put up a high figure.

But all was not smooth at the first council meeting, and ex-hotelier and City of Perth resident Ms McEvoy predicts a “bit of self-destruction down the track”.

“Give it a month or two,” she said.

Businesswoman Janet Davidson, who retained a council seat despite a tilt at the Lord Mayor’s position, took “first prize” — in the words of another councillor — in the number of external boards of which she became a member at the new council’s first meeting.

The number of Mrs Davidson’s external appointments — and Ms McEvoy’s failure to gain any — has been put down as a reaction to opportunities taken and missed over successive council terms.

The general view of the external board positions held by several members of the new council is that appropriate expertise has been recognised while, in some cases, experience has been sacrificed.

Mr Butler scored an East Perth Redevelopment Authority seat and said this was logical as he was involved in setting up the Subiaco Redevelopment Authority as a Subiaco councillor.

He said his position on the Perth Theatre Trust board was also understandable given he was a Hole in the Wall director for five years.

While almost all on council are keen to deny any factional behaviour, descriptions of the initial council meeting have differed.

“It was a good start, a good positive meeting,” Mrs Davidson said.

Councillor Vincent Tan said he thought the new council was made up of independent-minded, relatively honest and ethical councillors who could concentrate on making Perth the city it should be.

Mr Butler said the City is on the cusp of progress and development, and ready for “good, honest and open debate on the floor”.

Mr Tudori said the new council was “a good mix”.

“There’s a breath of fresh air, a bit of democracy. There’ll be no more unilateral decisions,” he said.

The first critical business of achieving this is considered the adoption of the $80 million budget.

After that, most members appear united on the priorities of working with the State Government to sink the rail line, addressing security issues, and determining foreshore development.

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