Opinion: Time to Go Postal

With more than 40 councils having elections on Saturday, barbecues at polling booths across the state will be running hot. 

While some in the community cherish running the gauntlet of party members and independents pushing how to vote material at them and the lure of a sausage sizzle at the end, in 2017 it is time to ask whether we could be doing things more efficiently without diminishing the role of participatory democracy.

In Victoria, 72 of its 78 councils have opted into full postal voting for local government elections. 

Positively this has seen an increase in the number of people participating in these elections with an almost 10 per cent lift in participation rates when compared to attendance elections.   

Electors are already making the change in NSW. 

The last state election saw a drop of more than 160,000 from the previous election in ordinary votes cast on election day, with voters moving to pre-poll, online or postal votes. 

NSW should be looking at ways to make it even easier to vote at council elections.

Adopting the Victorian approach to full postal elections for local government would represent a sensible step for change.    

Moving to a postal or online system of voting for council elections would not only improve access to voting but could also be coupled with enhanced requirements on candidates to provide adequate information on their political affiliations, qualifications, skills and capabilities in a standard template. 

Councillors have a critical role in local strategic planning, including of local infrastructure and in developing policies to support growth, development and job creation as well as creating sustainable and liveable communities, yet the information many candidates provide for publication to meet their legal obligations suggests they hold either the system or their community in contempt. 

New requirements under the Local Government Act should be put in place to require all candidates to provide this information and for it to be published on a publically accessible webpage.  

This would treat all candidates equally and allow electors to access material on each candidate to make a considered judgement on those who will be their local representatives.

Business knows that local government is far too important for candidates to be simply waved in without proper scrutiny from voters. 

In 2017 we can certainly do better than scrunched up how-to -vote cards and sangas with sauce. 

This article was published in the Daily Telegraph on Friday, September 8, 2017. 

 

Patricia Forsythe

Executive Director

Patricia represents the Chamber on the City of Sydney Retail Advisory Panel and the Sydney Airport Planning Coordination Forum. Patricia has represented the Chamber on a number of NSW government committees including the Light Rail Delivery Phase Roundtable, Sydney’s Competitive Positioning Steering Committee and the Retail Expert Advisory Committee for the Department of Planning and the Environment.