Newly-elected Perth mayor Basil Zempilas has spoken out about his radical plan for a ‘safer, cleaner, friendlier city’ ahead of his swearing-in on Monday.
The high-profile Weekend Sunrise sports presenter and former Channel Seven host was voted in as Lord Mayor of the city on Saturday night.
The father-of-three sparked outrage early in his campaign when he said he’d ‘forcibly remove’ homeless people from the CBD, calling them a ‘blight’ on the city.
Zempilas (pictured with wife Amy and their children) won the vote for Perth’s Lord Mayor on Saturday night
Mr Zempilas and wife Amy giving a speech.He narrowly claimed victory with 29.4 per cent of the vote
Despite backtracking during the campaign, Mr Zempilas on Sunday doubled-down, saying dealing with the homeless was a ‘huge issue’ for ratepayers
Despite backtracking during the campaign, Mr Zempilas on Sunday doubled-down, saying dealing with the homeless was a ‘huge issue’ for ratepayers and visitors to Perth, and vowing to bring up the topic with the State Government.
‘My view is, the situation at the moment, it’s not fair on the individuals themselves and it’s not fair on the City of Perth and we need to find better interim solutions for those people who are homeless,’ Mr Zempilas told The West Australian.
He also revealed he will work with Queensland based organisation Beddown, who turn carparks into temporary shelters for the homeless.
‘They take empty or unused spaces … They roll out bedding … and instead of people sleeping on the streets, they sleep in a safer environment where they can get a good night’s sleep and get some extra support,’ he said.
On what he wants to achieve in his three years as Perth’s leader, Mr Zempilas said he wanted to fix the issues which were keeping people away from the city.
‘I just want people to feel like it’s a more welcoming environment. And right now, there are a number of reasons why people don’t necessarily come into the city to either work, to shop, or to live.’
Other priorities mentioned on Sunday where Premier Mark McGowan’s hard border policy in response to the coronavirus pandemic, in which Western Australia remains closed to eastern states.
Mr Zempilas doubled-down saying homelessness was a ‘huge issue’ for ratepayers and visitors to Perth and vowed to bring up the topic with the State Government
Channel Seven star Basil Zempilas (pictured, with Sam Armytage) has been elected the Lord Mayor of the City of Perth
He said he wants to see the borders open as soon as possible, adding that a wider number of compassionate cases could be looked at first.
A tactic of softening of the hard border stance on a number of smaller cases and seeing how that goes is the position he said he would like McGowan to take.
Industry experts have previously said Perth CBD businesses and hotels have collectively lost hundreds of millions in revenue courtesy of the border closure.
He also said factionalism in the local government, an issue which contributed to the previous council being dissolved in 2018, would be addressed.
Mr Zempilas said he expected each newly voted in councillor to abide by their own decision-making and ideas rather than voting for political reasons.
He is expected to continue to juggle his media roles along with his duties as Mayor.
He presents the sports segment on Seven News Perth, writes as a columnist for the ‘West Australian’ and leads Channel Seven’s AFL and Olympics commentary.
He also co-hosts the 6PR Breakfast Show with Steve Mills, but will step down from his role at the end of this year.
On Saturday, he narrowly beat former ABC journalist Di Bain by securing 29.4 per cent of the vote.
Mr Zempilas was behind for most of the count but enjoyed a last-minute surge in support, edging ahead of Ms Bain who finished with 24.94 per cent of the vote.
It marks the first time in two years that voters have elected members of the council after it was suspended in March 2018.
A government inquiry was launched at the time and found ‘greed, incompetence and mismanagement’ was practiced by a number of councillors.
Mr Zempilas called the latest election a brand new beginning for the City of Perth.
‘This is a great opportunity for everyone, and it’s a great opportunity for the City of Perth to have the fresh start that it has so desperately been looking for,’ he said.
‘Everything we do from this point on is for the ratepayers and for the residents of the City of Perth. That’s who we are here for and that’s who we are here to serve.
Mr Zempilas (pictured, with his wife Amy) is a proud Perth resident saying he is excited to clean up the city
The TV and radio personality said in his victory speech: ‘Perth has given my family wonderful opportunity, and it has given me wonderful opportunity, and it’s the same opportunity that Perth can provide for all of its citizens’
‘We now have the leadership and the elected council that the City of Perth has been missing for the last three years.’
He first made mention of his strong views of the homeless issue in Perth’s CBD in a opinion column he wrote in August.
‘I make no apologies for this, the homeless need to be moved out of the Hay and Murray Street malls and the surrounding areas,’ he wrote.
‘Forcibly, if that’s what it takes. I’m sick of being told by people who don’t live and work in the city like I do that it’s not that bad — actually, it’s worse.
‘The look, the smell, the language, the fights — it’s disgusting. A blight on our city.’
Mr Zempilas was then forced to apologise after copping widespread backlash over the comments, with critics accusing him of being ‘disconnected from the city’.
‘Those comments were made in frustration over nine months ago after an incident with my wife and my six year old daughter and a man exposing himself at 11am on a Sunday,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘But the comments weren’t appropriate and I have apologised.
‘I’ve spent a good deal of the last six months educating myself by speaking with people who are homeless, trying to understand their situation better and by speaking with service providers. ‘
Eight new councillors along with Mr Zempalis will be sworn in on Monday afternoon.
It will mark the first time in two years that the city has been led by a council voted in by the residents.
Council was suspended in March 2018 and taken over by commissioners as a government inquiry was launched.
Mr Zempilas’ campaign trail hit a snag after he wrote in a column piece in August that he would ‘forcibly’ remove homeless people from the city centre ‘if that’s what it takes’
It found ‘systemic failings’ in the ‘poorly governed and dysfunctional council’.
A number of councillors were found to have manipulated election processes, used their positions of power for personal interests and failed to properly declare conflicts of interest.
‘The culture of the city has been characterised by self-interest, complacency, lack of accountability, lack of transparency and a lack of effective leadership,’ Inquirer Tony Power said.
Mr Zempilas promised a ‘fresh start’ and based his campaign on improving homelessness, reinstating funding for Aboriginal outreach programs and providing free parking for on-duty police.
He told The West Australian he felt ‘great responsibility, sense of purpose and obligation’ after the tight victory.
‘I know that the eight councillors and certainly the Lord Mayor come with the very best of intentions. They want to do the right thing by all of the ratepayers, residents and all of the visitors.
‘It’s our job to set the tone and to lead by example, but I know from the last three months, how optimistic people are about the future of the City of Perth and how quickly we can be on the right path towards where we want to take our great city.’
Mr Zempilas (pictured, on the campaign trail) promised a ‘fresh start’ and based his campaign on improving homelessness, reinstating funding for Aboriginal outreach programs and providing free parking for on-duty police