THE fact that only about 20 per cent of us bothered to vote in the recent elections is indicative of the level of interest most people have in local government.
Outside of a few “council watchers” at each meeting, most people don’t give their local government a second thought – until they have a problem.
Even the most politically uninterested would have no trouble naming the Prime Minister or Premier.
However, most would struggle to name their mayor or shire president. This indifference sometimes leads to calls to do away with local governments altogether.
Australia, with its three tiers of government, is over-governed, or so the argument goes.
Eliminating local governments would have far-reaching and not necessarily good results.
Imagine, for example, if decisions about whether to build a footpath on the road your children walk to school along was to be made by politicians in Canberra.
Or if the opening hours of the local swimming pool in Albany were decided in Perth.
There is a strong argument that power is best exercised by those closest to the consequences of the decisions.
Local government has expanded far beyond its traditional remit of rates, rubbish and roads.
Councils now routinely offer social services, fund community groups and security patrols and, in the future, are likely to expand into other areas.
By having your say on how local government works now, you may be able to improve how it operates.
This way, when you do care about an issue being decided by a council, your chances of getting a good outcome may be a little better.