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An issue of trust

Friday 8 March 2019

A week of intense pressure from the LGAQ and member councils on the Palaszczuk Government has produced results. We now have a more detailed picture of the Government’s plans for Queensland councils in relation to voting systems and other matters.

It is not a complete picture by any means but at least the Government has abandoned the idea that it could seemingly introduce such major change to the State’s electoral processes on the down low, without much attention being paid by those most affected by its plans, the voting public.

The 24 page information paper produced by the Department of Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs confirms that the Government’s proposal to introduce compulsory preferential voting into council elections is only one of many changes being contemplated.

Among the biggest of the other proposals is the notion of introducing the proportional representation in elections for undivided councils.

 

Under such changes, the potential for confusion and massive inconvenience in communities that have councils without electoral divisions is enormous.  Throw in a move to public funding (also part of the Government’s plan) and those councils might have 50 candidates or more nominating for election, producing the need for ballot papers that could double as tablecloths.

As I said in this column last week, the Government appears determined to force local councils in Queensland to operate more like state and federal parliaments. So, for a picture of what lies ahead for local communities if the Government does get its way, look no further than the current Australian Senate, whose members are elected on the proportional representation system.

Just what lessons this hodge-podge of Liberal, National, Labor, minor parties and single-issue zealots can offer to local councils, the level of government closest to the community,  is lost on me. It may also attract those characters known as “preference whisperers” who are able to game the system to maximise a fringe candidate’s chances of winning.

It is worth noting the findings of a recent Essential poll which showed that, when it comes to public trust in institutions, local government has actually improved its standing in the community and rates well above state or federal parliament.

No doubt all this will be the topic of debate at the special meeting of LGAQ members in Brisbane on 2 April. The LGAQ Policy Executive has signed off on 10 motions to be put to that meeting, the last of which will be a call on the Government to take heed of the position of the sector and the communities that they represent and serve, on the issues determined at the meeting.

Importantly, that motion also includes a call to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to honour her public commitment to not implement reforms to local government that she is not prepared to implement to her own government.

 

Local Government Association of Queensland
LG House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006

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