Inquiry into the conduct of the 2020 local government elections must be broadened

Published: 15th May 2020

The Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) has called for the State Government to broaden its inquiry into the conduct of the 2020 local government elections so long-standing issues can finally be addressed before they plague yet another election cycle.

LGAQ CEO Greg Hallam said while councils were grateful for the opportunity to outline their experience with the online publication of election results for the March 28 quadrennial elections, they wanted the scope of the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee’s inquiry to be expanded.

“The issues impacting the online publication of the preliminary and formal vote count were not new,” Mr Hallam said.

“These same issues impacted the 2016 election and we find ourselves in much the same place. 

“Queensland councils have said loud and clear this is not acceptable. 

“We believe the scope of the parliamentary inquiry is too narrow and therefore ask for a wider inquiry to be held so recurrent issues impacting the delivery of elections in Queensland can finally be effectively addressed.”

Mr Hallam called for the committee to also consider the recommendations of the last major review of local government elections.

“After the 2016 local government election, a review by former Brisbane Lord Mayor Jim Soorley produced 74 recommendations for improvement,” he said.

“It is the LGAQ’s view that these recommendations have not been effectively implemented by the ECQ and the failure to do so once again impacted on the conduct of the 2020 election.

“We want the Government and the ECQ to do more to ensure these problems are properly resolved well before 2024, when the next election is due.”

The LGAQ invited councils and candidates across the state to provide feedback on their election experience before making a submission to the inquiry.

“Overwhelmingly councils have expressed significant concerns about the inability to provide timely updates on the count of votes and to minimise delays in declaring final results,” he said. 

“But there are broader issues they want aired and addressed. These must be addressed so the same issues are not repeated in four years’ time when the next quadrennial elections are held.”

Mr Hallam said councils also wanted to reiterate their thanks to the Electoral Commission of Queensland and the Chief Health Officer for their work in ensuring the 2020 elections were able to proceed safely amid the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

“This showed incredible leadership and ensured stability for the local government sector at a critical time,” he said.

“Unfortunately it should not be used as an excuse when considering other performance outcomes that should have been reasonably expected to have been delivered.”

Recommendations made by the LGAQ to the Inquiry include:

  • Undertaking systematic analysis on how the 74 recommendations of the 2017 Soorley Report were implemented and/or what impeded their successful execution.
  • That options be examined, in consultation with the LGAQ and councils, for the delivery of the 2024 elections, including providing councils with the choice to conduct the elections themselves or engage a pre-approved supplier.
  • The introduction of performance arrangements with the ECQ and delivery of the election to be fully state funded to ensure these contracted expectations are delivered.
  • The development of a Memorandum of Understanding be developed between the LGAQ with the ECQ to ensure clarity in the communication and performance expectations with the local government and other key stakeholders during all stages of the election process.
  • The Independent Council Election Observer be independently funded and resourced accordingly to continue with the positive impact its presence had on the election.

For more information, please contact:

Sarah Vogler, Media Executive
Local Government Association of Queensland