Dirty campaigns bad news for the future of local government | OPINION

Haven't voted? Electors can drop off their completed voting package at the Mandurah Seniors and Community Centre on Ormsby Terrace until 6pm on October 21.
Haven't voted? Electors can drop off their completed voting package at the Mandurah Seniors and Community Centre on Ormsby Terrace until 6pm on October 21.

As local government elections wind up across the state on Saturday, there are many – including former City of Mandurah councillor and current Local Government Minister David Templeman – who are saying this campaign was the dirtiest in living memory.

Just in Mandurah, undignified spats have erupted between councillors on social media networks and illegal campaign material has been posted around town targeting Mayor Marina Vergone.

Although it’s an important part of community democracy, interest in local government elections has collapsed to an all time low.

In 2001, almost 47.4 per cent of voters in the City of Mandurah voted.

But that level of involvement fell to 26.7 per cent at the City’s 2015 council election.

As of close of business on Tuesday, 18,550 of the City of Mandurah’s 59,636 electors had cast their vote. At 31.1 per cent it is a slight improvement on 2015, perhaps because there is a hard fought mayoral race in the mix.

And as campaigns get dirtier and more expensive, how many sensible citizens would put their hands up for the kind of nonsense they can expect to have thrown at them just for running for local council?

Mr Templeman raised concerns about the lack of respect shown to candidates in Parliament on Wednesday.

Hats off to mayoral candidates Rhys Williams and Marina Vergone, who have weathered a tough campaign to be Mayor of Mandurah after October 21. Photo: Marta Pascual Juanola.

Hats off to mayoral candidates Rhys Williams and Marina Vergone, who have weathered a tough campaign to be Mayor of Mandurah after October 21. Photo: Marta Pascual Juanola.

He said after the election he would convene a round table meeting with the WA Local Government Association, the Department of Local Government and the WA Electoral Commission to look at ways to clean up council campaigning.

“I call on candidates and community members to show more respect in the way in which they are behaving, as trolling and negativity does not attract quality and diverse candidates,” he said.

“If we want a vibrant, diverse and quality local government sector, we must ensure that people feel safe, respected and valued when they put themselves forward.”

It is disappointing to think of the quality candidates our community will miss out on because of this campaign.

Many well qualified men and women will give some thought to running for council and then give it a miss.

And who could blame them?