Colin Barnett. Picture: The West Australian/Steve Ferrier

Former Barnett Government Minister Simon O’Brien has accused the Premier of being tricky with words by claiming the Government was not forcing local government amalgamations.

Mr O’Brien became the second Government backbencher in the Upper House in two days to criticise the Government’s plans for council reform.

On Tuesday night, Liberal MLC for South Metropolitan Nick Goiran said the Government’s proposal to hand the Crown Casino and the new football stadium site in Burswood to the City of Perth was “an affront to common sense” and a proposal that “lacks any detail or persuasive rationale”.

Before the last State election, the Liberal Party promised it would not force councils to amalgamate but the Government has since embarked on a reform process including it making extensive submissions to the Local Government Advisory Board that would see the number of metropolitan councils slashed from 30 to 16.

Local Government Minister Tony Simpson has proposed “boundary adjustments” to a raft of councils rather than amalgamations, which would trigger the so-called Dadour provisions in the Local Government Act that allow local residents to vote to veto a merger.

Mr Simpson has proposed boundary adjustments in South Perth-Victoria Park, Vincent-Perth, Bassendean-Bayswater, Canning-Gosnells, Fremantle-East Fremantle, Cockburn-Kwinana, Swan-Mundaring, Armadale-Serpentine-Jarrahdale, Kalamunda-Belmont, Stirling and Melville.

The seven western suburbs councils would be merged, potentially triggering Dadour votes.

In an impassioned speech, Mr O’Brien told the Upper House on Wednesday night it was “rubbish to say the Government is not forcing amalgamations”.

“Everyone knows that. And I am not impressed that the Government I support – and have worked hard for for years – should try these sorts of verbal gymnastics,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Because it reflects very, very poorly on them.”

Mr O’Brien said it would be interesting to see if the Government’s plans to use the “boundary change” provisions of the Act would stand up in court.

“Surely nobody could argue that that is what is provided for in the Local Government Act,” he said.

The West Australian

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