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Heading off a voting calamity

Friday 15 March 2019

In public life you are often confronted with difficult choices, knowing full well the consequences could be significant and long lasting. But ultimately if you stand for principle the right choice is obvious.

This is the third column running in which I have highlighted the Palaszczuk Government’s controversial and largely unwelcome changes to the voting system covering local government elections. As I have explained, we and our member councils strongly oppose the Government’s plans to force compulsory preferential voting into all local council elections, introduce proportional representation for undivided councils and have the public fund council election campaigns.

 

This week, the LGAQ President, Mayor Mark Jamieson, and the LGAQ Board put their foot on the accelerator, commissioning a big social media campaign opposing these planned changes. It was rolled out yesterday through Facebook and Twitter and will run right up until the enabling legislation is introduced to Parliament.

We get that this campaign could set back what has been a good and productive working relationship with the Palaszczuk Government. But we are confident we're on the right side of history, especially on the issue of public funding of election campaigns which is the equivalent of political poison.

Our campaign pulls no punches, but it needs to be to avoid an electoral calamity, the results of which will be with us for at least the four years following the 2020 elections. And we know Queenslanders support our stance. According to our pollsters Colmar Brunton, 70% of voters are happy with the system they have now.

Why a calamity, you might say? Consider this: when proportional representation was introduced into Victorian local government the informal vote doubled. Mark my words: the same or worse will occur here with spoiled and informal ballots. Add to that the risk of the donkey vote going through the roof.

Well intentioned Queenslanders will simply struggle to properly number up to 40, even 50, boxes in some large provincial cities. Newspapers found as much when they recently conducted several mall or pub tests of voters who will have to number all the multitude of boxes presented to them.

That’s not to forget the ludicrously small amount of money candidates will be able to spend to get their message out. Some will not even be able fund a mail out across sparse areas. The campaign spending caps proposed by the LGAQ are tough in that they envisage reducing previous expenditures by a margin. Tough, yes, but at least workable. It will be a catastrophe if the system limiting campaign expenditures leaves voters completely in the dark as to who they are voting for on polling day.

People not perplexity campaign

People need to believe in the fairness and genuineness of any election. Our whole system of democracy is based on that belief. We all have a responsibility to make sure that remains the case.

So, I ask colleagues to join in with this campaign by making their voices heard across social media, using the hashtag #HandsOffMyCouncil and letting their communities know about the changes – and what they mean for Queenslanders. Our action point is www.handsoffmycouncil.com.au, and we’ll be working hard to make sure our voices are heard over the next two weeks.

Let’s stand together with the overwhelming majority of people in our communities.

 

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

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