Today is the last day for residents to get their votes in – although many have undoubtedly made up their minds and already cast their votes. It’s now time for reflection as to the entire process and its potential outcomes.

The Age ran a story a few days ago on council elections and the associated ‘problems’. We will go a step further and state that much needs reforming, especially the legislation governing council elections. It is not enough that candidates have the choice as to whether or not they tick a box on some useless questions. Nor is it satisfactory that candidates are asked whether or not they are ‘endorsed’ by a political party. The Greens are the only party which officially endorses individuals. Labor and Liberal do not. But this doesn’t mean that these major political parties don’t influence the candidates or get involved in what happens in council chambers – Skyrail being the perfect example. Even asking whether or not a candidate is a member of any political party is not enough. The example of Esakoff’s campaign and her claim to be ‘independent’ shows how inadequate this is!  What this election has shown above all is the (deliberate?) impotence of the legislation.

Remember the de-facto How-To-Vote cards? When Liberal candidates can nominate Vote #1, Vote #2 and Vote #3 on their candidate statements, and the VEC can rule that this is okay, then there is something drastically wrong with our system. And since the Bayside Libs did exactly the same thing, we can only conclude that the ‘orders’ came from on high from headquarters! And what influence did the Labor party have on awarding preferences to their members?

In Glen Eira dirty tricks have been abundant –

  • Posters torn down
  • Stooges and trolls operating to their heart’s content on social media
  • Flyers distributed which allege collusion between Labor candidates and sporting clubs
  • Candidates’ billboards advertising real estate agents

It has been a dirty campaign where the gulf between the incumbents’ statements on their flyers and their actions are miles apart. If Magee can state that he supports 3 and 4 storeys in activity centres, yet in chamber supports 7 storeys for Carnegie, then truth has no value. Nor do Hyams’ claims to be working for the ‘community’ hold up to scrutiny when his voting patterns on so many issues clearly show how one sector of the community can so regularly outweigh the wishes of the majority of the community. Pilling of course is the classic case of someone elected on Green credentials, only to become a ‘turncoat’ and basically align himself with the conservatives time and time again. Yet this hasn’t stopped him from producing flyers and posters which are still green in colour – but without naming the Greens.

Here are some suggested reforms that we hope will improve both the quality of candidates and the electoral process. We welcome your thoughts!

  • Prospective candidates to nominate 6 months out from the election date
  • Prospective candidates to undertake a comprehensive ‘induction/education’ process at this time and not once they are elected
  • This ‘course’ to be standard across all councils and conducted by ‘independent’ bodies including – Law Reform Commission; Accountants Association etc. In other words covering all the major areas that councils operate within. If candidates ‘fail’ these courses they become ineligible to stand.
  • Standards to be set on all election material
  • Compulsory ‘town hall’ meetings for all candidates 2 weeks out from the election
  • Councils to provide the facilities for these meetings

Much, much more can and should be done. This of course depends on the will of legislators and whether their primary concern is true democratic process and an equal playing field!