29 November 2010

Media Release: Local Government Act Review welcomed

Changes to the Queensland Local Government Act to allow mayors and councillors to stand for state parliament without having to resign to contest the election have been welcomed by local government.
State Parliament's Law, Justice and Safety Committee has released its report with 33 key recommendations on the running of future council elections.
Other recommendations include a cap on election expenditure, the introduction of divisions for all local councils with a populations exceeding 30,000 and a ban on radio and television advertising for local government elections in the three days prior to an election.
Ipswich Councillor Paul Tully, Queensland's longest-serving city councillor,  said the proposal to allow mayors and councillors to nominate for state parliament without first resigning from council overturned the "unfair and undemocratic laws" introduced by Peter Beattie in 2001. 

Cr Tully said Mr Beattie had a "love-hate" relationship with local government, forcing through unpopular amalgamations and preventing most councillors seeking higher political office.
"The Committee Chair Barbara Stone and the other members ought to be congratulated in standing up for the democratic rights of all Queenslanders including the 73 mayors and other councillors across the state.
"If the Bligh government accepts these recommendations, it will be a giant step forward for democracy in Queensland and will be the first major policy decision of the Beattie era overturned by the Bligh government."
In another recommendation, the Committee rejected plans to introduce a property franchise in Queensland which would have allowed non-residents to vote in council elections.
Cr Tully said this would have been the "thin edge of the wedge" allowing cashed-up property owners who live interstate to influence local council elections in Queensland.
In a blow to the Greens, the Committee decided against recommending the introducing of a senate-style proportional representation voting system for Queensland local government elections.
The committee noted the "harmonisation of voting systems across all levels of government may go a long way towards reducing the level of informal voting by Queensland voters".
Cr Tully called on the state government to retain optional preferential voting for local government.
"It is fair, democratic and easily understood by voters and has lead to a dramatic reduction in the level of informal votes at council elections in Queensland."
Other key recommendations are:
• Retaining the last Saturday in March as the quadrennial council election date
• Retention of compulsory voting for Queensland council elections
• Mayors to continue to be elected by the people
• Simplified procedures for absentee voting in council elections.

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