Local Government Bill is a travesty for democracy in Victoria

Australian Greens

The Victorian Greens have come out swinging against Adam Somyurek MP’s proposed Local Government Bill, saying it would put councils up for sale come election time.

By backing down on its plans for donations reform, the Government has given the green light to the gambling and property developer industries to run riot during the upcoming local government election by buying influence with big donations.

Leader of the Victorian Greens, Samantha Ratnam, said that Somyurek had abandoned the best reforms outlined in an earlier iteration of the bill and embraced the worst.

The current bill also forces councils to adopt a single-member ward system, which would ensure that councils are more likely to be controlled by major parties with no representation for independent minority voices.

It would also reduce the number of women in local government, with studies showing that multi-member wards have a significantly higher proportion of female councillors than single-member wards, 41.4 per cent to 33.9 per cent.

The Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) has consistently recommended that councils move to multi-member ward systems over single-member wards, and an overwhelming majority of councils have also opposed the move.

Single-member wards are in no way supported by evidence or council experience.

As stated by Samantha Ratnam MLC, Leader of the Victorian Greens:

“These reforms are going to be a travesty for democracy in Victoria.

“Corporate interests such as those of the gambling industry have no place in our local government. By abandoning donations caps and putting our councils up for sale, the Government is opening the next election up to huge donations, at a time we’re seeing a serious IBAC investigation into exactly that.

“We also need diversity in local councils to ensure that every member of our society feels represented. With this bill Mr Somyurek is attempting to monopolise local government and undermine local democracy.

“These reforms go against expert recommendations and the needs of councils, and will hurt the Government’s reputation for years to come.

“It begs the question – why is Premier Daniel Andrews letting Somyurek get away with this?”

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