BY Lindsay Johnston
The NSW Government introduction of two votes for business is a divisive and damaging piece of legislation. It pitches the value of the business vote as being twice as important as a resident’s vote, and it pitches those who live outside the City of Sydney as being more valuable than business owners who live within the LGA.
As a small-business owner I detest the threat of a $2,200 fine for not registering to vote. Using force to make ratepayers and small businesses vote goes against every basic tenant of democracy. Then add that small-business owners are spending hours trawling through mountains of application documents only to find that if the business owner is a resident of the City of Sydney, like the City’s beleaguered residents, they only get one vote.
I believe that we will see pushback from businesses and residents alike at this election that could seriously backfire on the State government and the Liberals generally. I’ve spoken to many residents who are furious at business getting a double vote in what they see as a totally undemocratic process. Meanwhile, there is anger from business owners because they are being forced to vote against their will.
At a reported $12 million wasteful cost to the City, I think that there will be a strong protest vote, and justifiably so. The question is, where will that vote go? Whether we see the 23,000 forced business voter registrations – up from 1,700 voluntary registrations – turn into extra votes cast remains to be seen.
I believe that the brazen use of threats and force to double the non-residential vote is likely to see protest votes supporting the Lord Mayor rather than abandoning her. This comes at a time when many in the community are expressing disillusionment with her Council administration. No doubt there is further political opportunism at work that does nothing to serve the people of the City. With the cost to the City and the immeasurable cost to business, this State Government’s opportunism is breathtaking. The amendment to the City of Sydney Act should be repealed.
The Greens’ view is that democracy can only be served by upholding the principle of one vote one value for residents only. We oppose the compulsory imposition of non-residential voting in the City of Sydney and propose that Local Government and the rights of its citizens be protected by constitutional recognition in the Australian Constitution.
If elected to the City of Sydney, my promise to the people and the business community is to work with our Greens State colleagues to repeal this inefficient, wasteful and obnoxious attack on democracy.
There has never been a time so important to have Greens on Council.
Lindsay Johnston is the Greens candidate for Lord Mayor of Sydney City Council.