Political Interest Register

Political Interest Register

I think it is understandable that some Councillors have an attraction to politics and, ergo political parties. But I wonder whether the public has a right to know what, if any, ties their Council representatives have with registered political parties. As such I am considering moving a motion that the City of Bayswater introduces a Political Interest Register. I seek your view on this.

A couple of Bayswater Councillors now have their own developer contact register. I’ve never, ever felt pressured from a developer so don’t actually see a need for it, but because there may be a perception of conflict, I created one.

On the same vein, whilst I have been a long term member of the Liberal Party, and yet never hesitated in supporting motions which have benefited Bayswater over the Liberal Party, I believe there may be a perception of conflict. As such, being as open and transparent as possible seems to make sense.

The motion I am considering is:

That the City’s Code of Conduct be updated to include a requirement for all Councillors to advise the CEO of the following, if applicable, and that this information be made publicly available through the City’s website.

  • Membership of a political party.
  • Employment by an elected representative of a political party.
  • Employment by a political party.
  • Any immediate family member who is, or has been, an elected representative of a political party.

The beautiful thing about Western Australian local governments is that there is no political party involvement (overt involvement anyway), and Councillors are free to vote on each item as they wish. This motion is not to suggest that Councillors who have ties to registered political parties are incapable of acting impartially, however it might be challenging to speak out against an aligned party if you are actually employed by an elected representative of the party. And this is more common than you may think. There are Mayors, Deputy Mayors and Councillors throughout the State who are employed by members of parliament. Regardless of whether or not they would be prepared to support a stern letter written from council to their actual employer, I think residents should have a right to know about these connections.

A contrary argument is that as there is not meant to be any political party involvement in local government, do the public have a right to know about a Councillors political ties? How far do you take disclosure; religion, sexual preference, taxable income? There needs to be a balance between what the public is entitled to know and what should remain confidential.

What do you think, should any ties to political parties be made public?

Power to the People.

(Please be aware that these views are my own and have not been endorsed by the City of Bayswater)

7 thoughts on “Political Interest Register

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with the three points you mention. Can you also consider adding something relating to property development which would include architects,builders, surveyors,etc. (anyone who is likely to benefit from developments in the city.)

  2. I am not sure that members of the public have any right to know of councilors political affiliations, but I think it is a very good idea that all councilors should know so that they can be aware of any conflicts of interest in debates and voting

  3. Yes, if you serve in public life, including as an elected local government representative, you should be expected or required to disclose if you are a member of a political party. Of course, such transparency will provide opponents – political or otherwise – with readily accessible ammunition, accusations of bias etc. But hopefully your real motives and values, Labor, Liberal or Green, will speak most loudly through your modus operandi, actions, and, if you are clever or fortunate enough to be effective, your achievements. There are shining lights and bad apples in every political party.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to share your views Tessa. Ian’s comments (ex-Vincent Cr) are a cause for concern though. I’d hate for the transparency of political interests to lead to a more overt involvement of political parties in local government, because this would then ultimately lead to factional voting. The decision makers would then be the party power-brokers and not the actual Cr’s. Great thought needs to be given to this before proceeding which is why I am putting it out there rather than simply submitting the motion. One can clearly see the potential for conflicted decision making, especially when someone is actually employed by a political party, but one needs to be aware of unintended ramifications.

  4. This is good move, Chris – especially as local government in WA is notionally free of party-politics, unlike some other States. I would add, though, another to your four conditions:
    – Employment by any person seeking election on behalf of a political party to any federal or state parliament or any local government.

    I’d also suggest that ’employment’ should somehow be defined to include those who are not paid – perhaps add the words ‘whether remunerated or not’. Possibly the definition of employment might exclude unremunerated work, in which case you might need to find another term for that.

    The downside, of course, is the political parties might become more overt in support of or standing candidates, if their involvement is going to made public anyway.

    Need careful consdideration.

    1. Thanks for sharing your insightful views Ian. Especially re the downside; it would be very unfortunate if there was a greater move from the major parties to get more involved in local government. I shall mull over your suggested additional condition. The glaring one I haven’t used is for Cr’s who have been pre-selected to run in a State/Federal campaign; I decided to exclude this as I felt that everyone would already know by that stage, but am still thinking about it.

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