The controversial Shooters and Fishers proposal to reform business voting procedures in the City of Sydney is likely to pass the upper house on Wednesday, September 20 as City Hub goes to print.
Backlash against the proposed bill has increased as the Victorian Local Government Review Panel this week announced recommendations surrounding possible reforms to the conduct of local government elections around Victoria. The findings of this review, however, do not apply to the City of Melbourne.
A statement from Victorian Local Government Minister Tim Bull’s office stated, “…while the review’s recommendations relate to all 79 local governments, the Government recognises the City of Melbourne is governed by its own Act of Parliament with a unique electoral system.”
The findings therefore do not apply to the City of Melbourne’s policy on business voting, on which the Shooters and Fishers bill is modeled.
Despite this, politicians leading the opposition to the bill have used the report as evidence that the City of Sydney should not adopt the City of Melbourne’s business voting procedure.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore has called on NSW Parliament to reject the bill in light of these findings.
“This review has debunked the claim that the Melbourne business voting model works and sends a strong warning against adopting a system that Melbourne may soon abandon,” the Lord Mayor said.
“It would be unthinkable for the NSW Government to now push through these undemocratic and deeply unpopular changes.”
The panel also found that despite compulsory business voting and the allocation of a possible two votes per business, only 58% of businesses were actually voting in the City of Melbourne and the number of businesses voting twice had been diminishing since its inception.
Independent Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich has also called on NSW Parliament to reject the bill following the panel’s announcements.
“What has been touted as the ‘successful’ Melbourne Model is now nothing more than the ‘Melbourne Mistake’,” Mr Greenwich said.
“The government has been pushing major changes to Sydney’s local government elections including two votes for business, council managed elections and electoral rolls, and permanent non-residential electoral rolls, all because Melbourne does it.”
“Now the Victorian Local Government Electoral Review has recommended a new model that respects one-vote-one-value.”
Debate on the Shooters and Fishers bill will begin when Parliament sits on Wednesday, September 10th.
In the lead up to the parliamentary debate, a ‘One Vote, One Value’ rally was organised at Sydney Town Hall on Saturday, September 6th to protest the bill.
Speakers included the Lord Mayor, NSW Labor Leader John Robertson, Alex Greenwich MP, David Shoebridge MLC of the NSW Greens, Local Government NSW President Keith Rhoades, Independent City of Sydney Councillor Angela Vithoulkas, Secretary Unions NSW Mark Lennon and actor Robyn Nevin.
The rally attracted hundreds of attendees and featured a regular “one vote, one value” chant.
“(The Shooters bill) is aimed at a Council that is corruption free, debt free and with a strong financial position, and at a time when there is a stench of developer donation corruption hanging over the State Government which is being played out in ICAC day-by-day,” the Lord Mayor said during her address to the rally.
“In stark contrast, I lead a Council that does not make decisions based on what’s inside brown paper bags!”
A range of different views in opposition of the bill were voiced.
Cr Vithoulkas, a small business owner, spoke in support of business franchise but decried the lack of community consultation on the Shooters Bill and argued it will champion the big end of town at the expense of small business.
Ahead of this week’s parliamentary debate on the issue, Liberal Party Government Whip Gareth Ward said he supports the bill but is unsure of the notion of allowing two votes per business.
“Everyone from Alex Greenwich to Clover Moore to myself seems to accept that business should have a say, no-one seems to dispute that. If we accept there is a franchise, it should be made as easy as possible as it is no different from the residential franchise,” Mr Ward said.
David Shoebridge MLC argued that businesses should not have a franchise at all.
“Corporate Australia already has a stranglehold on the major parties in this country and we cannot allow them to get a formal stranglehold on local government elections,” Mr Shoebridge said.
“One vote, one value, and never for corporations.”
Mr Ward said he has reservations about the provision of two votes per business.
“I know some people have reservations about this; I also have reservations, but those reservations aren’t enough for me to vote against an overwhelmingly positive bill.”