State and Local Platform

Hey Pirates,

While helping out John August with his local council campaign, I asked around a bit about local issues and talked to the various candidates; in the back of my mind, always pondering what Pirate should mean at the State and Local council levels.

First thing, there’s growth in big party involvement at the local Council level and it’s not great. I heard many people complaining how partisan things had become in Council, saying that it’s hard to get anything done, just because they don’t want to side with their opponents.
Council merging is encouraging this even further, because in larger councils you’re more likely to need a party machine to get elected. In Ryde, we had the spectacle of the Liberal party not giving preselection to incumbent candidates, causing them to fracture out into two new independent groups (the Independent Conservatives and some guy named Roy).

Everyone touted the same issue “over development”. High-rise buildings in suburbia are unpopular. Especially without adding infrastructure and community facilities development.

The Greens want to give rate discounts to households with solar panels. Since the council still needs the same income to perform it’s function, the effect would probably be to just transfer money from wealthy people who can afford solar panels, to poorer people in the same suburbs. So that’s crap.

The young preselected Liberal dude (Jordan something) claimed that just opening a new small business with a shop front, takes 18 months. He claims it’s because the local Council doesn’t cooperate with the state government that has an expedited 3 month process. This sounds suspiciously like a state control power bid.

So I’m looking at all this and thinking that the Pirate position should be towards smaller local councils with greater autonomy to create their own culture/community. Maybe treat State level as a way to pool resources and capability for greater efficiency, but with local direct decisions and community involvement. Some of our existing policy on libraries already take a stance like this.


Agree we should support smaller Councils. The smaller they are the closer to the people, the more democratic, the harder for the state to centralise and control power.

We were supposed to be merged last year and representation for the smaller LGA would have dropped from 1 councillor per 9000 residents to 1 per 30,000. Plus services would have probably been rationalised for consistency across the new larger area.

I think good things to support are:

  • Inter-Council collaboration, knowledge sharing and Creative Commons licensing.
  • Open data and mandatory sharing of datasets.
  • Privacy protections especially regarding CCTV and public wifi.
  • Protection and greening of public open spaces and commons.
  • Opposition of public land fire sales to private interests like private/Catholic schools.
  • Public hiring vs private leasing of public assets like halls and parks.
  • Improving community engagement and consultation.
  • Consideration of evidence in decision making - eg social health outcomes of increasing tree coverage and walkability of cities.
  • Plenty more but I need to push my daughter on the swing right now.
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You’ve made an argument for low Councillor:population ratios, not necessarily smaller councils. Those tiny baby councils you have down south are too small to be able to do much IMHO.

Then again, there’s a formula that says the number of representatives should be the cube root of the population. This was intended for national parliaments, but it’s interesting to apply it at a council level. 30 Councillors gives a population of 27,000, which is… actually really tiny. I’d suggest 10,000 as the ratio.

Perhaps it might be instructive to look at Auckland? They have a two tier system. This allows both fine-grained local representation and a large, capable council covering the entire urban area.

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Local government is a bit of a finicky subject. It can’t be applied equally across metro and rural areas simply because of how differently those communities interact together and with each other, amongst all the other issues e.g. geographical etc.
E.g. I don’t think having one ‘council’ that covers the entire Sydney metro area is a good idea for democratic participation, but there are large projects that go through multiple council areas that sit in an awkward position between the local and state levels.

Perhaps looking into how the County of Cumberland system worked, and working out any potential shortcomings in that design might be something to look into concurrently with any discussion about the future roles/existence of local councils and state governments.

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