Sydney business owners have condemned the secrecy surrounding the proposed Shooters and Fishers Party bill to amend business voting procedures in the City of Sydney.
The proposed legislation makes business voting compulsory and automatically enrolls all businesses in the City to vote in council elections. The bill also enrolls two voters for every business.
President of the Darlinghurst Business Chamber Stephan Gyrory questioned the motives of the bill’s author, Shooters and Fishers Party MLC Robert Borsack.
“He’s politicised an issue that didn’t have to be politicised for his own personal gain,” he said.
Mr Gyrory supports compulsory business voting, but said he feels the political game-playing surrounding this bill has meant his more moderate view has not been heard.
“The problem is people like me – like the Liberal Councillors and Independent Angela Vithoulkas – we are all treading a middle ground but no-one is interested in the middle ground, not even the media,” he said.
“The debate should be happening, it shouldn’t be up to Alan Jones. We need to discuss it like responsible adults.”
Councillor and small business owner Angela Vithoulkas expressed similar concerns about the way this bill has been managed.
“I’m disappointed that this whole matter has had so much political hype attached to it,” she said.
“I’ve yet to see the detail of the legislation and I’m disappointed the community wasn’t consulted.”
Cr Vithoulkas said she does think the current voting system requires reform.
“We need to get rid of the layers and layers of red tape that bury small business in paper,” she said.
Conversely, some members of the business community are entirely opposed to the contents of the new bill.
CEO and Founder of Digital Eskimo in Surry Hills David Gravina expressed concern that the legislation would create a biased electoral roll.
“You’re looking at creating a situation where business has a strong influence through various channels already and then effectively dominates the vote as well,” he said.
“It is plainly biased and totally unrepresentative of the residents who live in the City.”
Mr Gyrory said he supports the compulsory voting element of the bill because he feels it will create a stronger voice for businesses.
“As businesses we are totally excluded from the political process,” he said.
“If we get the vote, Clover will have to pay more attention to us.”
Founder and director of Ruby Reports in Surry Hills David Service said he feels businesses are already adequately represented and catered to by the Lord Mayor.
“From my perspective as a small business owner, businesses already have a good ear in government,” he said.
“The current City of Sydney does a lot of work to liase with business and help ensure business operating in the City are catered for.”
Lord Mayor Clover Moore has expressed her concern for the impacts of this bill, particularly in terms of the threat it poses to democratic integrity.
“It is shocking that the NSW Government is supporting changes that undermine a key principle of our democracy – one vote, one value,” she said.
“This undermines a key principle of democracy – that no matter who you are or how much money you earn, your vote is just as valued as anyone else’s.”