Election 2013 Western Australia March 9

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Barnett caught out on forced amalgamations

Labor Statement

A Barnett Government backbencher has confirmed that the Liberal Party supports forced local government amalgamations, WA Labor Leader Mark McGowan said today.

Mr McGowan said the Armadale Examiner newspaper revealed that during a debate in Armadale on February 20, Member for Darling Range Tony Simpson admitted the Liberal Party supported forced amalgamations if the Government was re-elected.

"Colin Barnett and the Liberal Party have been caught out on their plan to force local governments to amalgamate after the State election," Mr McGowan said.

"WA Labor has consistently opposed forcing local governments to amalgamate and now the cat has been let out of the bag.

"When forced amalgamations take place, bureaucracies grow, costs grow, corporate and public affairs inside councils grow and ratepayers are left to foot the bill through higher rates.

"We've seen this first hand with the amalgamation of Geraldton and Mullewa, which saw new ratepayers in the City of Greater Geraldton face rates hikes of around 27 per cent.

"WA Labor believes in voluntary amalgamations, when the community supports it.

"We strongly oppose interference from a heavy handed government."

Mr McGowan said Mr Barnett needs to explain why he has had numerous positions on this issue.

"In February 2009, Locall Government Minister John Castrilli said he would force amalgamations if local governments did not achieve them voluntarily," he said.

"This was followed by Premier Colin Barnett and Mr Castrilli trying to deny ever making the threat of forced amalgamations.

"The Liberals then adopted a different tactic, pretending to oppose forced amalgamations but threatening to withhold funding to councils which refused to amalgamate.

"On October 24, 2012, Mr Barnett said 'I think we do need less' (local governments).

"On the same day he told Parliament 'I have said on a number of occasions that I happen to think that somewhere in the range of 15 to 20 might be appropriate for Perth'.

"Mr Barnett must come clean on the Liberal Party's position today.

"If he fails to do so, voters will know once and for all that a vote for Colin Barnett and the Liberals is a vote for forced local government amalgamations and higher rates.

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