COMPULSORY voting at local government elections was raised at this month’s Joondalup council meeting.
The debate was a result of the council considering the City’s submission on the State Government’s latest review of the Local Government Act 1995.
This is phase two of the review that was announced in 2017 in a bid to modernise the Act to “empower local governments to better deliver for their communities as well as to remove red tape and overly burdensome bureaucracy”.
A series of discussion papers and online surveys were prepared by the State Government for public comment, focusing on its vision for local governments to be “agile, smart and inclusive”.
However, at the council briefing, governance and strategy director Jamie Parry said some of the suggestions being made in the discussion papers were “contributing to red tape rather than removing it”.
“This includes requiring additional policies to be made, additional administrative/governance
requirements to be implemented, or additional levels of oversight to be had,” the council document said.
It said the City believed the act should remain principle-based in which local governments have the “flexibility and ability to operate in”.
Cr Russ Fishwick presented an alternative motion to endorse the City’s submission but not to support the establishment of a Local Government Commission or the removal of the requirement to report a local government’s monthly list of payments to the council.
He said he believed the independent role of local government should remain and the reporting of monthly payments was in the interest of openness and transparency. These were both approved.
The motion also supported compulsory voting in local government elections, in line with Federal and State elections.
Mayor Albert Jacob said having the right to vote was the best quality of Australia’s system and would “only add value to local government”.
However, Cr Tom McLean said he did not support this because if a resident was “concerned or interested enough”, they would vote.
The vote was 6-6, with Mr Jacob casting his deciding vote against the proposal. He said he changed his vote to not support compulsory voting in line with the City’s previous formal position on the matter.
Cr John Chester raised concerns with some suggestions in the review, saying it had the capacity to “significantly disempower ratepayers”.
This included the need for 500 electors to call a special electors meeting, rather than the 100 required now, which he said was a “threat to democracy”.
Cr Russell Poliwka said a “far more radical review” was needed.
“There needs to be a balance of power between council and ratepayers,” he said.
Mr Jacob also successfully moved an amendment to support the removal of exemption for lease for life tenancies.
Feedback on the review is open until March 31 at email@example.com.