Minister urges ratepayers to vote in local government elections

Stock image.
Stock image.

LOCAL Government Minister David Templeman has urged ratepayers to get involved in this month’s council elections.

With voters expected to start returning postal ballots this week, Mr Templeman said local governments affected people’s everyday lives and people had a responsibility to take an interest.

“I encourage people to get involved in their local government elections,” he said.

“We have had traditionally low voter turnout in local government elections – I don’t think that’s great for local democracy.”

Congratulating candidates already elected unopposed, Mr Templeman said there were not as many people putting themselves forward as he wanted when encouraging diversity at the start of nominations.

However, he said he hoped to see greater diversity in the new crop of councillors when ballots were counted on October 19.

Mr Templeman said he supported candidates using signs, pamphlets and social media as campaign tools, as long as they complied with the Local Government Act.

Regarding the proliferation of signs, he said “that’s the nature of democracy”.

Acknowledging reports highlighting inappropriate tactics, Mr Templeman said all local government candidates had undergo induction training under new rules and those successfully elected would do more training.

“To date, 1568 people have completed this training, which is available online and costs nothing to complete,” he said.

“The new laws also require all councillors to undertake a training program that will cover areas such as conflicts of interest, understanding financial reports and budgets, and serving on council.

“The draft code of conduct is currently being finalised and will be released for public comment in the near future.”

Mr Templeman said social media was increasingly important way for candidates to get their messages out, although less controlled than traditional methods, which remained important.

“It’s a concern when people are unfairly trolled or bullied,” he said.

“I would urge people who are candidates and people who are supporting candidates to make sure that the council elections are conducted in a fair way.”

The WA Electoral Commission confirmed candidates or anyone else who printed, published or distributed electoral material, including articles, letters, notices or pamphlets, to affect the result of elections had to comply with the Local Government Act.

“In the case of all electoral material, the name and physical address of the person authorising the material must appear at the end of the electoral material,” a spokesperson said.

“In addition, unless printed in a newspaper, the name and address of the printer is also required.”

The spokesperson said size and placement of electoral related signage was a matter covered by individual local government by-laws as well as road safety laws.

“Complaints or concerns about alleged breaches are initially dealt with by returning officers and if required can be escalated to the commission’s head office team,” the spokesperson said.

“Complaints are treated and responded to confidentially and action taken where required.”

Visit www.elections.wa.gov.au for more information.