This week’s Herald led with the headline: “Bid to Double Mayoral Pay” which was misleading in quite a few  ways.

Sometimes it is hard not to feel slightly persecuted by the Herald when they makeup misleading headlines like this with a rather tenuous link to reality and then personalise it when the issue equally applies to all mayors and councillors in Perth.

I know the facts often get in the way of a Herald headline but too be 100% clear there was no “Fremantle Council submission recommending a big pay boost”. The Fremantle Councillors and myself have not even considered the matter let alone made a submission to the Salaries and Allowances Tribunal.

As I told the Herald the City of Fremantle CEO made an informal submission to WALGA (Western Australian Local Government Association) but it certainly didn’t ask for pay to be doubled or trebled. It simply broadly supported WALGA’s position that:

1. Pay rates should reflect the size and complexity of each local government area rather than one size fits all local governments as currently exists. For example, mayors and councillors in big council areas like Cockburn and Melville would receive more pay than those in small areas like East Fremantle or Cottesloe.

2. That full time Mayor’s should receive superannuation like all other employees (they currently don’t).

3. That mayor and councillor pay should be adjusted annually by an independent State Government body (not the Council) so as to avoid the current issue in which no WA mayor or councillor has had a pay rise in more than 8 years.

Not much to disagree with in this submission I would have thought.

To anyone who seriously thinks this will lead to a doubling of Mayoral salaries. …as it was put in The Castle “tell ‘em they’re dreaming” …but I guess that doesn’t make for a good front page headline


UPDATE – I have since spoken to the editor of the Herald who has kindly agree to publish a correction. I should also add that the City of Fremantle had not got back to the Herald journo on the CEO’s submission before deadline which lead in part to the misreporting. My apologies for that and glad this has been cleared up. 

About Mayor of Fremantle Brad Pettitt's blog
City of Fremantle Mayor


  1. Alex says:

    Personally, I think that if the City was allowed to double salaries and it attracted even slightly better candidates, then it would be a great use of rate payers’ money. It’s still a drop in the ocean compared to the $70m plus annual budget and we should have the best people we can running our City.

  2. freoishome says:

    I am loath to see Mayor and Councillor pay rise until other changes occur. For example:

    I think we need to see a return to the role of Mayors and Councillors representing the electorate to the Council, by which I mean that they should be standing up for the electorate, they should be representing their electorate, both in Council debate, but of equal importance, to the Council Administration.

    Although that happens to some extent, we also see our Councillors and Mayor representing the Council to us the electorate. So they take on the job of applying regulations to us. In that regard they are merely the face of the administration.

    In specific cases such as planning regulations for an individual development it is more complicated to do that, and to that extent they will probably always have to straddle the ‘fence’.

    But, with broader strategic initiatives and wider planning issues, their role is not to block the ideas and thoughts of the electorate, rather to encourage them. That requires much more than just organising public meetings, it requires the practice of deep listening. In that Councillors and Mayor actually need to stand up for the ideas and statements of the cross-section of residents. ‘Group think’ amongst Councillors is bad in that situation.

    We need ideas coming from multiple perspectives, including from within the Administration. Where they come from the Mayor and Councillors themselves, or major developers with specific Councillor support, the electorate should be fully informed of the source. So if they were to say we need to increase, office space, retail and residents, great, but Councillors and the Mayor should not run with that idea from the perspective of solid support, at least not until it has already had a lot of electorate input. They should not have ‘skin in it’ from the outset as that blinds them to the opinion of the electorate. Electorate input should not be constrained to choice A or B. It should begin at the divergent stage of ‘is this actually a problem, issue or need that we are required to deal with? What are the broader aspects and options?’

    I might be more supportive of pay rises in such a situation. But not now.

  3. freoishome says:

    Thank you that link to Vancouver, Brad.

    British Columbia is an example of a State that is willing to risk innovation at Local Authority level. A decade ago when the renewal of the Hydro power supply essentially to the USA came up, the local BC community negotiated to have a larger say, and that led to a very different form of local Gov’t. It essentially recognises locals as the current custodians of locale amenity, and that they should have a say in any development, from the most minor to strategic such the Hydro power negotiations. Instead of locals being seen and labelled as anti development, NIMBYs or trouble makers, they now have status as the custodians of amenity, people who must be negotiated with at the first stage of development, ie, the ideas stage. I think it is related to Mabo, and the status that gives Aboriginal custodians of the amenity even if not the formal ownership of land.

    The Vancouver Greenist City initiative for community engagement seems like another high risk approach to greater involvement of communities in the democratic process. From the report it seems a worthy attempt, sounds like the type of thing CUSP should follow up. Whether and how it deals with the role of Councillors isn’t clear.

    To answer you first question about which level of gov’t should my thoughts apply. I think it might be easier to develop these approaches at the LA level, but I think we need it across the board. We now have a highly educated population who are all equally capable, unlike medieval times of enormous illiteracy, so why not use that huge pool of wisdom. As an example using an experiment I participated in a decade ago. Give a large group of people a classic spot the difference picture puzzle, ie, one correct the other with 10 changes made. Give them insufficient time to solve it, eg 3 minutes. Then check to see how many individuals found 10, 9, 8 etc The really interesting thing is not who got the most, rather across the group all 10 mistakes were spotted very quickly.


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