Gladstone divisonal council?

DIVISIONAL councillors could be the way of the future in the Gladstone Regional Council area.
A report by the Law, Justice and Safety Committee about local government elections included 33 recommendations such as council areas with more than 30,000 people must introduce a divisional structure within its council.
The news was welcomed by two Gladstone region residents with local government experience – Peter Neilsen and Josie Meng.
“It’s the fairest way,” Mr Neilsen said.
He said the current councillors lived within a 20km radius of the Gladstone CBD and the surrounding areas should have their own representation in council.
Mr Neilsen said some representation would be better than no representation at all.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” Ms Meng said .
“While, from a councillors point of view, you need to be across all your region, it (division) then give you an opportunity to be across your division and the community has one person they can contact. I think it gives the community a sense of ownership and representation.”
She said leading up to the amalgamation, the former Miriam Vale Shire councillors wanted a divisional structure in the new regional council, with one councillor in Miriam Vale shire’s former area and one in the Mt Larcom/Raglan area.
Ms Meng said the general feeling in the Miriam Vale area was that people wanted a divisional system.
Mr Neilsen said one of the benefits of a divisional system would mean that less people would have to vote in a by-election if a councillor had to resign.
He said the council terms should be reduced from four to three years, which was not recommended.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

DIVISIONS

Recommendation 1:

That the Local Government Electoral Act provides that a local government area with a

population of 30,000 or more must introduce a divisional structure within its council.

Recommendation 2:

That the Local Government Electoral Act contain a provision to allow councils in local

government areas with a population of 30,000 or more to appeal to remove council divisions where they can demonstrate that, following public consultation, the introduction of divisions is not in the best interests of that particular community.

Recommendation 3:

That the Local Government Electoral Act provides that a local government area with a population under 30,000 shall have, at a minimum, six councillors plus a mayor.

CONDUCT OF ELECTIONS

Recommendation 4:

That the Local Government Electoral Act provides that the Electoral Commission of

Queenslandis responsible for the conduct and administration of local government elections in Queensland.

Recommendation 5:

That the Local Government Electoral Act provides that the Electoral Commission of

Queenslandshould, whenever practicable, consult with individual councils and the local

community by calling for submissions on matters pertaining to the conduct of a local election such as, but not limited to, whether a local election should be by attendance or by full postal ballot and recommended polling booth locations.

Recommendation 6:

That the Local Government Electoral Act provides that, should the Electoral Commission of Queensland call for submissions from individual councils and the local community on matters pertaining to the conduct of a local election, the Commission may call for submissions to be made within a prescribed ‘community consultation period’ and must consider submissions lodged with the Commission within that prescribed period.

Recommendation 7:

That the Local Government Electoral Act gives the Electoral Commission of Queensland the discretion to reject submissions made outside of a prescribed community consultation period.

Recommendation 8:

That the Electoral Commission of Queensland be appropriately resourced to enable it to effectively manage responsibility for the conduct of local government elections and to enable it to undertake local area consultation as required.

Recommendation 9:

That the Local Government Electoral Act provides that the Electoral Commission of

Queensland may, at the discretion of the Electoral Commissioner, investigate, and trial the potential application of new technologies to ascertain whether they can be safely and securely implemented and utilised, to better facilitate the efficient and effective conduct of elections by the Electoral Commission of Queensland. Any active trials are to be conducted in consultation with the local councils affected.

Recommendation 10:

That Returning/Presiding Officers receive comprehensive training as to their roles and responsibilities under the Act.

TIMING OF ELECTIONS

Recommendation 11:

That the Local Government Electoral Act provides for local government elections to occur every four years, on the last Saturday in March, unless a regulation directs otherwise.

Recommendation 12:

That the Local Government Electoral Act provides that the electoral roll for a local government election closes on 31 January in the year of that election.

Recommendation 13:

That the Local Government Electoral Act provides that, where an election is impacted by severe weather or by a declared disaster, arrangements are made to facilitate voting in affected areas or by affected voters as expeditiously as the circumstances will permit.

Recommendation 14:

That the Local Government Electoral Act provides that, where some delayed voting occurs within a local government area or division as the result of weather events or disaster, the result of partial counts of already cast ballots within an electoral area or division may not be disclosed, published or otherwise released, before all persons in the affected area have been afforded a reasonable opportunity to vote.

Recommendation 15:

That the Local Government Electoral Act retain the existing section 270, Schedule 2, of the Local Government Act 2009, but stipulate that the time fixed for a by-election be within 12 weeks from a vacancy arising.

CANDIDATES

Recommendation 16:

That the Local Government Electoral Act require that intending candidates for election must first be nominated by the registered officer of a political party that has endorsed the candidate, or by at least two electors for the local government area for which the election is to be held.

Recommendation 17:

That the Local Government Electoral Act require that on nomination of a candidate, a deposit of $250 (or such other amount equal to the nomination fee for candidates for the Legislative Assembly) be lodged with the Returning Officer and held in the local government trust fund; and that the Act provides that this deposit is refundable to candidates who are elected or who receive more than 4% (or such other proportion equal to that for candidates for the Legislative Assembly) of the total votes for that area or division.

Recommendation 18:

That the Local Government Electoral Act require that a person standing as a candidate for a local government election reside in that local government area.

Recommendation 19:

That the Local Government Electoral Act prohibit a person being, at the same time, a

candidate for election as mayor of a local government and a candidate for election as a

councillor of that local government; or being a candidate for election as a councillor of a local government for more than one division of the local government’s area.

Recommendation 20:

That the Local Government Electoral Act provide for the conduct of a poll for the election of mayor of a local government.

Recommendation 21:

That the Local Government Electoral Act remove the existing subsection 155(3)(b) of the

Local Government Act 2009, so as to allow a councillor to retain office upon nomination for election as a Member of the Legislative Assembly.

CAMPAIGN FUNDING AND DISCLOSURE

Recommendation 22:

That the Local Government Electoral Act require that the disclosure requirements for local government candidates mirror the current requirements for candidates for the Legislative Assembly.

Recommendation 23:

That there should be a suitable cap on campaign expenditure. Given the variable size of the electoral districts involved, the cap could be in terms of per capita expenditure in divisions or council area, whichever is applicable.

ELECTORAL SIGNAGE

Recommendation 24:

That the Local Government Electoral Act contain provisions that mirror sections 36, 392A and 392B of the Local Government Act 2009 with respect to how to vote cards and other how to vote material.

Recommendation 25:

That the Local Government Electoral Act contain provisions in respect of electoral signage and advertising that mirror section 36 of the Local Government Act 2009 and that reflect the Supreme Court’s ruling in Geoffrey Greene v Gold Coast City Council [2008] QSC 25 that a local government cannot place a blanket ban on political communication.

Recommendation 26:

That the Local Government Electoral Act prohibits the use of television and radio candidate advertising and promotion from the Wednesday prior to a Saturday local government election or by-election.

COMPULSORY VOTING

Recommendation 27:

That the Local Government Electoral Act mirror the current section 282 of the Local

Government Act 2009 to retain compulsory voting and impose a penalty on eligible persons who fail to vote at local government elections, equal to that applying from time-to-time for failure to vote at a State election.

PRE-POLL, ABSENT AND POSTAL VOTING

Recommendation 28:

That the Local Government Electoral Act should, for attendance elections, allow enrolled voters to be able to pre-poll within a local government area, without requiring the voter to provide reasons why they are pre-poll voting.

Recommendation 29:

That the Local Government Electoral Act should, for attendance elections, allow enrolled voters to automatically obtain a postal vote upon application, without having to provide reasons why a postal vote is sought, and that such application may be made  electronically without the need for a signature.

Recommendation 30:

That the Local Government Electoral Act allow absent voting within a local government area, without requiring the voter to provide reasons why they are absent voting.

PROPERTY FRANCHISE

Recommendation 31:

The Local Government Electoral Act provides for voter eligibility as is currently prescribed by s.276 of the Local Government Act 2009.

VOTING SYSTEMS

Recommendation 32:

That to reduce confusion among voters in elections across different levels of government, efforts be made to increase consistency of voting systems across those levels of government.

Recommendation 33:

That a comprehensive educational campaign accompany any changes to the voting systems at local government elections.