The Greens successfully amended the NSW Coalition’s Local Government Elections Bill last night to put in place a long-needed ban on property developers being local councillors or council candidates.
The Bill puts in place a number of integrity measures for the 4 September council elections and, importantly also allows the Electoral Commissioner to issue COVID-safety rules to keep voters safe when they cast their vote.
The obvious conflict of interest between being a councillor and a property developer comfortably persuaded a majority of MPs in the NSW Upper House to support the ban with a 23 to 18 vote in favour. The only parties keen to allow property developers to continue their hold on councils were the Coalition and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party.
The Bill now passes to the Lower House where the government is threatening to block the Bill, including the needed covid safety powers, simply because they want to be able to run property developers as local council candidates.
Greens MP and Local Government Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
“It’s disturbing that the NSW Coalition are so committed to the political power of their property developer mates that they will sacrifice COVID safety measures for this election.
“The need for COVID safety measures including social distancing at polling booths and protections for elderly voters is particularly clear now, and not passing these measures risks disenfranchising vulnerable people.
“These reforms will be tested later today with a vote scheduled in the lower house where we will see where the Coalition’s priorities really lay.
“Property developers have controlled NSW Parliament and many councils for too long, and it’s time to draw a line in the sand.
“A truly independent elected council should be able to listen to the community with no significant conflicts of interest. This just isn’t possible where you have a financial stake in (over)development.
“This is a bill dealing with integrity measures in Local Government, and the most important one of these is getting rid of conflicted property developers from elected council positions,” Mr Shoebridge said.