Challenger to mayor seeks more transparency

Taelor PeluseyBusselton Dunsborough Times

The only councillor to challenge Busselton City Mayor Grant Henley for the top job used this week’s special meeting to call for more transparency and inclusiveness on the council.

Addressing the council before Monday’s vote, Councillor Ross Paine pointed to figures reported by the Times last week showing fewer than a third of people voted in the Busselton election.

Cr Paine, who is the youngest of the nine councillors and was elected in 2015, said the figures indicated electors were disenchanted and “tired of being unable to see into the process”.

“I think if we’re honest, we’d acknowledge that often mildly contentious issues aren’t being decided by council, but by a few councillors and inner circle,” he said.

“I’m not talking about ordinary meetings, those are governed by the Acts and the standing orders — I’m talking about all the little decisions that lead up to that point.”

The mayor thanked Cr Paine for his feedback after being sworn in and later told the Times the council comprised individual people with individual views, but teamwork was how items passed.

“Any councillor has the ability to pull an item but ... they need someone to second it,” he said.

“There’s certainly no inner circle and we regularly vote against each other on numerous topics where we’re trying to balance development with environment, amenity and all the other considerations that we have to.”

Cr Henley acknowledged ordinary meetings were usually brief and many items passed “en bloc”, but attributed it to a “streamlined” process.

“From the outside looking in, you mightn’t see council debating certain issues, but what you also don’t see is the huge amount of discussion, debate, research and information that’s gone in prior to the decision making process,” he said.

Cr Paine lost out to Cr Henley 8-1 for the position of mayor and received two votes for deputy mayor, but was defeated by Cr John McCallum, whose views on the low voter turnout differed.

“If things were going bad, I think we would see a massive turnout,” Cr McCallum told the Times.

“We try to get on as a team; we don’t all always see eye-to-eye, but we develop the right decisions at the right time.”

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