19 March 2019
There’s much unhappiness in the tent of many Councils in Queensland about the plans to force major changes to the way Queenslanders elect their local councils.
One of the most significant proposals is that compulsory preferential voting would apply to all Councils in Queensland. This change would make voting significantly more complex and that makes it easier to make mistakes. One of the other proposals is the notion of introducing proportional representation in elections for undivided councils (South Burnett Regional Council (SBRC) is a divided Council). This would benefit larger political parties and drown out local voices. The other point of discord is that the Government are also proposing to use Queenslanders rate payments to pay candidates even if they’re not elected. That means $1.57 per vote (for SBRC it equates to $70,402) money that’s not being spent on infrastructure or services. These changes are just some of the raft of changes proposed by the State Government in a discussion paper which will be debated by the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) at a special General Meeting being held in Brisbane on Tuesday 2 April 2019. The proposed reforms included by the Belcarra Report and discussions with stakeholders includes:
- Compulsory preferential voting;
- Compulsory candidate training;
- Proportional representation in undivided councils;
- Tighter regulation of discretionary funds;
- Campaign spending caps; and
- Clarification of COI/MPI provisions.
Integrity is a significant issue to ensure current and future Councillors are fully informed about their obligations as candidates and Councillors. Councillors are required to uphold the highest levels of honesty and impartiality when making decisions in the public interest. The intent of the Palaszczuk Government is to clarify and strengthen transparency requirement before, during and after an election to enable voters to better know who they are voting for and reduce corruption risks. It’s also about the community understanding why councils make the decisions they do in the public interest. There’s a raft of proposed changes greater than those listed above. All these matters will be put to the vote at the 2nd April meeting for advice to the State Government. LGAQ is proposing that members oppose all proposed changes with the exception of campaign spending caps and supporting the introduction of legislation to prevent the potential distorting influence of electoral expenditure by third parties with aligned interests.