VIDEO: Locals know better than faraway bureaucrats — Stonehouse
In my inaugural speech I quoted Thomas Paine, who said that “Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one”.
I agree with Paine. All government is a necessary form of evil, so, given that we need it, let’s make it as close to the people as possible.
One thing that I am quite fond of is making references to The Simpsons. Members can ask the Premier about that. If members will indulge me, I would like to make one more. In a 1995 episode of The Simpsons, Bart taunts an Australian sheep farmer by suggesting that a dingo is eating his baby.
The visibly angry sheep farmer says “That’s it! I’m going to report this to my member of Parliament!”.
He yells out the window to a pig farmer next door “Oi, Gus, I’ve got something to report to you”. The pig farmer is the Member of Parliament.
The sheep farmer and the Member of Parliament have a conversation and the MP says, “That’s a bloody outrage, that is! I’m going to take this all the way to the Prime Minister”.
They both run up a hill and yell to a half-naked man who is relaxing on a rubber tyre in a billabong. “Hey, Mr Prime Minister — Andy!” The half-naked man is the Prime Minister.
Although this might be a funny scene, I see it as a perfect exercise of how government should function. The sheep farmer has a problem. He talks to someone in his community who has the means to represent him, and they both talk to someone who has the means to fix the problem. Local solutions to local problems.
That is partly why I have come to the conclusion that local government is one of the most important levels of government in Australia.
After all, nobody knows better how to fix a problem than the people who live in that community.
My support for local government stems from the principle known as subsidiarity, which says that decisions should be made at the most local level possible.
The idea is that all power should initially be vested in the hands of the most local level of government and it should move outward only when that level of government is unable to carry out a particular function.
Alex de Tocqueville spoke in favour of this principle when he said that:
“Decentralisation has not only an administrative value, but also a civic dimension, since it increases the opportunities for citizens to take interest in public affairs”.
This regulation as it stands will remove the concessions that local councils currently enjoy when paying for vehicle registration. The Minister for Transport has spoken about how this is expected to raise $5.9 million for the state coffers throughout the year.
However, as anyone who has ever worked in the private sector knows, when an additional cost is imposed on a business, that cost is inevitably passed on to consumers, which, in this case, is the ratepayer.
It comes as no surprise to me that Lynne Craigie, the president of the WA Local Governments Association, has said
“If money has to be used to pay registration in the budget, councils will either have to put up rates or cut back services”.
Alan Leeson, the Chief Executive of the Shire of Moora has echoed a similar sentiment. He said:
“This will result in local government having to either reduce the services and facilities it provides or increases its rates”.
The WA Local Government Association has told us that this measure will increase council rates by 2.5 per cent this year alone, and it is not hard to figure out why. This measure will mean that local councils will pay an extra $4 800 for registration of a prime mover, $1 000 for a rubbish truck and between $400 and $500 for a ranger vehicle.
So there we have it. The state government is in a budgetary and fiscal mess, but rather than tightening its own belt and cutting spending in its own departments, it is looking to transfer the cost onto local governments — to jump the fence and steal anything that is not nailed down, so to speak. Ratepayers suffer enough through land taxes and prospective homebuyers suffer through stamp duty.
When Hon Rick Mazza told me about his disallowance motion, he did not need to convince me to support it. I have laid out quite clearly my belief in small government and low taxes. It is clear that this change in regulation is a tax by stealth and therefore I support this disallowance motion