Less representation at local council is another Somyurek legacy

Socialist Alliance councillor Sue Bolton. Photo: Jon Englart/Flickr

In his former role as Minister for Small Business and Local Government, the now disgraced Adem Somyurek decreed that all municipal councils in Victoria would move to single member wards and postal ballots, changes which are now being implemented by the state Labor government.

In light of Somyurek’s branch-stacking, people should be asking why he wanted those changes for this coming council election, Moreland councillor Sue Bolton said on June 21.

“Single member wards advantage the major parties, because they reduce representation and get rid of proportional representation,” Bolton told Green Left. “They privilege the major parties, which have money, and make it very difficult for minor parties and independents to be elected.”

Bolton is running for re-election to the Moreland City Council in October, the last election before this council changes to single-member wards.

“Smaller parties and independents have a greater chance of being elected under the proportional representation system of multi-member wards, like elections to the Senate”, Bolton said. “This is important, because it gives people a choice as to whom they entrust to be elected officials.”

Postal ballots make it easier for the cashed up major parties to run “dummy candidates”, Bolton said. It also allows them to direct preferences, thereby making it easier to keep representation to one or the major parties.

Under the current system in Moreland, people need to vote on a designated election day. This means that candidates need to produce election material and mobilise supporters to distribute material.

Since postal voting was introduced in the 1990s, the number of dummy candidates has increased.

Amendments to the Local Government Act means that all councils will be forced to use postal voting for this year’s council elections. This involves the Victorian Electoral Commission sending out a 150-word statement with a photo of the candidate. The candidate does not need to campaign, advantaging candidates from the major parties who have the funds to send out multiple mailings.

“The Premier needs to examine this Somyurek measure, in the wake of the branch stacking scandal which reveals his contempt for democracy,” Bolton said.

“Single member wards are nowhere near as good as multi-member ones for a level of government that the community is increasingly looking to for immediate needs,” she continued.

“Somyurek introduced these reforms for self-interested reasons: to allow Labor to maximise its chances of taking back control of the inner-city councils from the Greens and socialists.

[To help reelect Socialist Alliance councillor Sue Bolton who is standing with Meghan Street for the North-East Ward of Moreland, get in touch here or ring Sue Bolton on 0413 377 978.]

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