Principles of Local Government

Local Government is the tier of government that people are most familiar with. Yet, in its familiarity, there is a sense that it is not government at all. It is a ‘service provider’, with customers and clients. At a service level, that is all very well, but there is a bigger picture that can’t be understood in the context of a business model. Local Government should capture the aspirations of the people, listen to ideas, provide alternate models of the world, and lead debate on the big issues affecting our future. While the services that Councils deliver are undoubtedly important, it is the big picture issues that attract me. That is why I have stood for Council – because it is part of a whole socio-political framework that could make Tasmania and Australia a fairer, and better, place to live.

Nothing should be taken for granted. Council amalgamations are on the agenda. But perhaps the issue is bigger than that. Tasmania is a small State of just 500,000 people. If we amalgamate enough Councils, and perhaps reduce the number to just three, then we will have a regional structure that brings the role of the State Government into question. Do we need a State Government? Can we ‘shed a tier’?

If we amalgamate into bigger Councils, how do we guarantee proper representation of residents.

I have advocated for ‘precincts’, already established in Glenorchy, to ensure real inclusion and participation of residents in matters affecting them. Hobart City Council has, so far, been reluctant to embrace the idea. I will be working towards more resident involvement, and ‘precincts’ offer a workable model.

Compulsory voting has been proposed to overcome poor voter turnout. There is a fundamental problem in a democracy, however, when people are forced to do something that does not harm others. I do not believe in compulsion. I will not be part of a coercive state. Voter turnout could be improved by encouraging more resident participation, and more local representation. Candidates known in their local area will always attract votes, and should raise voter turnout way above the current 50%. Compulsory voting is just one more intrusion on the rights and freedom of we, the people.

For more of my thoughts on compulsory voting, click here.

Party politics, already apparent in the Chamber, could take hold if compulsory voting is brought in within the current system. Political parties will seek to raise issues that should be properly debated in other forums. Party nominees will use local government as a stepping stone to higher office, with no real interest in the issues they must deal with. The antagonism and head-butting of the Parliament will be brought to the Council Chamber, as happens on mainland Councils.

A major theme of this site will be the way in which revenue is raised at local government level. As far as possible, revenue should be raised as close to the source as possible. The Rates system, when based on land values only, is fair and equitable. Hobart City Council, which uses AAV, has got it wrong for many years, and has left itself vulnerable to destructive pseudo-reforms as the water and sewerage fiasco. Land Value Rating is the key to equity and efficiency, based as it is on the principle of Beneficiary Pays. That principle is explained well in the Brisbane Inquiry into Valuation and Rating (Downloadable PDF)

The means of raising Council revenue is so important that I will devote a full page, and much subsidiary information, to the topic. See: Financing Local Government

In short, the public interest will be best served by a transparent process, democratic representation, community engagement and a rates system that is broadly understood and accepted as fair and efficient.