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Haese backs compulsory voting, not closed to amalgamations

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Lord Mayor Martin Haese says he supports compulsory voting for the City of Adelaide and would be open to amalgamating with nearby councils – but says he would only consider the latter once the city council has its own house in better order.

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Responding to questions about his view of amalgamating with inner-Adelaide councils during an interview with InDaily yesterday, Haese said: “I think there’s so much room for improvement at Adelaide City Council that that is what we should be focusing on.”

He said he did not have a “firm view” on the issue, but: “If we were operating like a well-oiled machine I might look at life differently.”

He suggested the council had begun to function more effectively during the past several months, and that he wanted that progress to continue before considering fundamental operational changes that would be involved in amalgamations.

Central Ward councillor Houssam Abiad told InDaily “I’m a big supporter of council amalgamations for [the sake of] efficiency”.

He said, though, that it had to be shown objectively that there would be financial savings and improved services for ratepayers to justify amalgamating with other councils.

He said “digital amalgamation” of some council websites and services could produce benefits in the meantime.

But Area councillor Anne Moran said the city council had never voted in support of amalgamation and that joining with inner-Adelaide councils would “dilute” the business ratepayer vote in favour of residential ratepayers.

“People like me will do well [under amalgamations] but you will have less of your Houssams,” she said.

Haese also said that he believed compulsory voting should be introduced for ratepayers of the City of Adelaide.

“I’m a personal supporter of compulsory voting for city councils,” said Haese.

“[Adelaide City Council] requires special consideration because the volume of the people using the city.

“You get 8000 people determining the composure of the dedicated body that represents 262,000 people [who visit the city] every day.”

He said compulsory voting would lead to a “more representative” council but warned against the influence of party politics in other Australian capital cities that have compulsory voting.

“Local government’s role is to debate the issues on their merits,” he said.

He added that the “torrid” debate on energy policy at the state and federal level since the statewide blackout in September was an example of party politics producing poor outcomes.

“It’s riddled with vested interest – anyone can see that,” he said.

“I don’t want local government [drawn] into that.

“I’m hoping that wouldn’t transpire here – I don’t think there’s an appetite for it.”

Earlier this week, Haese said Opposition Leader Steven Marshall’s policy to remove the state’s renewable energy target would discourage investment in the state.

Moran said, however, that most people aren’t “particularly interested” in the city council and shouldn’t be forced to cast a vote.

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