Electoral changes in spotlight

Cairns Mayor Bob Manning and Deputy Mayor Cr Terry James will join their counterparts from 76 other local government areas when they converge on Brisbane tomorrow for a special meeting to vote on legislative and electoral changes being proposed by the State Government.

The special meeting of the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) has been called so leaders of all Councils can debate and vote on a range of changes that may be introduced to the Queensland Parliament as early as tomorrow night.

Among the concerns is the Government’s proposal to introduce compulsory preferential voting (CPV) for the next Local Government election, a move LGAQ CEO Greg Hallam has described as “being forced down the throats of the community and councils in a very rushed and unseemly manner” and was “being driven by crude political self-interest”.

Mayor Manning said he was very concerned about the proposal which the community had not been consulted on or had any desire to implement.

“A survey by the LGAQ shows that more than 70 per cent of people are happy with the current voting system which allows for optional preferential voting in both Mayoral and Councillor elections,” he said.

“The Government proposes to change that to compulsory preferential voting even though there is no trigger for this other than their reason that it will align with voting methodologies for State and Federal elections.

“This flies in the face of the Soorley Report – commissioned by the State to review the conduct of the 2016 council elections – which clearly recommended against introducing compulsory preferential voting until at least 2024.”

Cr Manning said that of the 31 recommendations put forward by the Crime and Corruption Commission following its Belcarra inquiry, none came close to urging the ditching of optional preferential voting in favour of compulsory preferential voting.

“We have been quite clear that some of the changes that came out of the Belcarra inquiry have had unintended consequences that this Council has had to manage because they were, again, rushed through with little consultation with local government,” he said.

“I agree with the LGAQ’s stance that the introduction of compulsory preferential voting is a critical matter for Councils and should be discussed and considered by those it affects before being rushed through Parliament.”

The LGAQ has stated it has concerns that introducing CPV will lead to higher numbers of informal votes; the complexity and length of the count; and voters being required to express “preferences” for candidates they dislike.

Tomorrow’s LGAQ meeting in Brisbane will consider 10 motions that respond to the Government’s proposed amendments to election expenditure caps; dual candidacy (running for mayor and councillor position); regulation of Third Party Expenditure; and public campaign funding of local government elections.

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