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This weekend marked the official start of media personality Basil Zempilas’ tilt to become Perth’s Lord Mayor. So what is actually happening with the mayoral race and who is contending?

Why is the race such a big deal?

The upcoming City of Perth elections are the first time that local ratepayers will have a say in who runs the council since councillors were suspended in March 2018. The suspension followed years of disfunction. An state government inquiry concluded in June found that some former councillors and council staff “engaged in improper and unethical conduct”, while former Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi “too often encouraged division and factionalism”. Since the suspension, the council has been run by three administrators appointed by local government minister David Templeman. All nine positions on council are up for grabs on October 17, including the Lord Mayoralty.

Why is the Lord Mayoralty so important?

The answer to that is simple: it is a very prestigious title. There are only eight Lord Mayors across Australia, one for each capital city. While only technically representing the City of Perth council, the Lord Mayor often represents the entire city, both nationally and internationally. This makes it by far the most high profile local government position in Western Australia.

From L-R: Basil Zempilas, Tim Schwass, Di Bain and Mark Gibson

Di Bain

The first of the four candidates to put their hand up, Di Bain is perhaps best known for her time as an ABC journalist between 2001 and 2012. Until last year, she ran her own media and marketing agency, Bain Media. The company helped run campaigns for major clients including Fortescue Metals and the WA Day public holiday. She currently serves on the boards of Tourism Western Australia, Perth Zoo and is the chair of Activate Perth, an organisation which seeks to revitalise the Perth CBD. Ms Bain is campaigning on a platform of “city revitalisation”, an increased focus on tourism and the arts, sustainability and addressing homelessness in the city. It is not the first time she has put her hand up for council, having run unsuccessfully in 2017.

Tim Schwass

The only declared candidate who does not have a media background, Tim Schwass is a recently retired magistrate. For 30 years, Mr Schwass served on the Children’s Court. Prior to that, he spent ten years as a lawyer for the Welfare Department and two years working in Broome for the Legal Aid Commission. He is campaigning on a platform of restoring public faith in the council, addressing homelessness and solving transport issues. Like at least half of the confirmed candidates, Mr Schwass lives outside of the City of Perth local government area. However, he claims that he will relocate from Nedlands to East Perth if his Lord Mayoral run is successful.

Mark Gibson

The most high profile declared candidate until this weekend, Mark Gibson is no stranger to the spotlight, becoming a household name in Perth during his 19-year stint at Channel Seven. When the Today Tonight current affairs program was axed late last year, he moved to radio, and currently hosts a weekend program on talkback station 6PR. Mr Gibson claims that he is the only candidate who actually lives within the City of Perth, though The Bunbury Bulletin has been unable to independently verify that claim. He is campaigning on a policy platform of ”city revitalisation”, including redeveloping Langley Park and a cablecar from Elizabeth Quay to Kings Park. As for conflicts of interest with his media career, Mr Gibson has claimed he would quit his job, conducting the Lord Mayoralty full time.

Basil Zempilas

The man who has likely catapulted his way to the front runner position, Basil Zempilas had been publicly canvassing running for six months before his official announcement on Saturday. Perhaps WA’s most well known media personality, he currently works as a sports presenter for Channel Seven and co-hosts 6PR’s breakfast program. Mr Zempilas is campaigning on a platform of cutting red tape, addressing homelessness and “city revitalisation“. Despite his high profile, questions have been raised about whether he is suited to the position, along with his desire to keep his media roles during his Lord Mayoralty. He has recently moved from West Perth to Floreat, which may further complicate his run.

So what now?

It is now a waiting game to see whether more candidates come forward. Nominations do not officially close until September 10, so there is still some time for other prospective candidates to make the decision to run. Additionally, with nominations not opening until September 3, there is the chance of a candidate dropping out of the race. Either way, the City of Perth elections are shaping up to be one of the most interesting in recent history.

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