Changes Cost Ratepayers

March 22, 2019
Labor is planning monumental changes to local government that will cost ratepayers $10 million, introduce senate style voting to council elections and lead to party politics being foisted onto ratepayers.

With zero consultation, news about the proposals began dribbling out. They could be debated in parliament next month and passed by mid-year so they can be in force for the next council elections in March 2020.
The Local Government Association of Queensland is so alarmed that it has undertaken to make the general public aware of what is happening. Thank goodness they are because the Minister does not seem to be keen on meeting his obligations in this regard.
Labor’s Record on Local Government
In a state as big as Queensland, local government plays a very important role, as their management of their communities through drought, flood and bushfire shows.
No wonder people are still angry about Labor’s forced council amalgamations 12 years ago.
They understood they were losing representation and losing influence over events in their own backyards. At the time Peter Beattie and Anna Bligh said it would save money, but an edition of Government News this year reported research showing it actually cost millions.
Senate Style Voting for Councils
Now Labor is planning to introduce Senate-style voting for undivided councils. This is called compulsory preferential voting and as we know, it can create odd outcomes. We have senators who attracted as little as 19 votes sitting in the chamber.
Under this system, ratepayers must number every square for their vote to be valid.  This means you will be forced to give a vote even if you would rather leave a blank box. If you mis-number the squares, your vote will be invalid.
No wonder 70 % of people surveyed by the LGAQ were against these so-called “reforms”.
Changes will bring Political Parties into Councils
Most seriously, just as it has done in senate elections, this style of voting will see the formation of voting blocs, as candidates do deals with other candidates about who they are going trade preferences with. By 2024 you can guarantee political parties will be involved.
The icing on the cake is that Labor is proposing to pay candidates. Sorry, did I say Labor is going to pay? No, I meant Labor is proposing that ratepayers will pay candidates.
Ratepayers to Pay Candidates in Council Elections
The starting rate for candidates and political parties who achieve 4 per cent of the vote or more will be $1.57 per first preference vote received. The LGAQ estimates it will cost councils around $10 million at the first election. We all know it will only increase from there.
This is $10 million of ratepayers’ funds that can’t be spent on council works and services. “Clean elections come with a cost,” sniffed Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe with conspicuous self-righteousness.
But local government only exists because of an Act of the Queensland Parliament and so the responsibility for making sure it operates properly rests with the Queensland Government. You would think that includes running clean elections.
Did the CCC ask for these reforms?
The Minister is using Operation Belcarra as his excuse for these reforms. Operation Belcarra was an investigation by the CCC into corruption in 4 of Queensland’s 77 local governments. The CCC found nothing in two of those cases, while the other two led to the sacking of the Ipswich Council, the prosecution of two mayors, a CEO and others.
But the CCC’s Operation Belcarra did not mention voting reforms in any way, so the Minister’s justifications don’t stand up.
The Fitzgerald Inquiry did take a hard look at voting systems and that report said this system the Minister wants to foist on ratepayers is the worst possible system. Many people think the Senate would be vastly improved if we got rid of the system there, so why would we bring it in at local government level?
Leave Politics Out of It
In my opinion, local government works best when it is close to the people it serves and party politics is left at the door.
These reforms will achieve the opposite and they will change local government in Queensland for the worse. Make no mistake, these changes are monumental.
Tell Queenslanders the Truth
The general public deserves to know what is being done before it goes to parliament. They deserve to know in detail and they deserve the opportunity to voice their opinion before this is done to their towns and shires in their name.
The LNP stands with the LGAQ in opposing these so-called “reforms”, but the government has the numbers to push them through the parliament. Clearly, Labor believes it has everything to gain, but it is ratepayers who will pay.