The City of Sydney Council has begun the process of implementing controversial reforms to business voting in the City’s local government elections.
The reforms, proposed by the Shooters and Fishers Party and supported by the NSW Government, seek to increase the franchise of business owners working in the City of Sydney.
The bill gives businesses two votes for every resident’s one; it automatically enrols business owners to vote where this had previously been dependent on businesses choosing to enrol, and it makes voting for businesses compulsory.
The bill also transfers the responsibility for the preparation of the non-residential electoral roll from the NSW Electoral Commission to the City of Sydney itself.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore raised the issue of the implementation of this legislation at a meeting of the council on Monday, November 3.
“The murky deal done between the Baird Government and the Shooters Party means our elections will not be run by the independent NSW Electoral Commission. Instead it will be run by the City’s CEO,” she said.
The Lord Mayor expressed concern that the implementation of the legislation would pose serious challenges to council and may allow future councils to corrupt the integrity of the electoral roll.
“Giving the power to decide who votes and how elections are run to the people being elected, or with an interest in the outcome, is a dangerous move. In the wrong hands, it opens possibilities for corrupt, untrustworthy or manipulative politicians to alter the system to suit themselves,” she said.
“I have asked the City’s CEO to obtain independent probity advice to help us understand how we can implement the new laws while protecting the integrity of City of Sydney elections.”
Robert Borsak, the Shooters and Fishers MP who proposed the bill, said he was confident there would be no implementation challenges for his legislation.
“I don’t think there will be any challenges at all,” he told City Hub.
“They’ve got until the middle of 2016 to do it, I don’t see that the council will have any issue with implementation at all.”
Mr Borsak also refuted the notion that the transfer of responsibility for non-residential roll preparation to council could allow for electoral corruption.
“The roll will be able to be publicly viewed, it is not a matter of secrecy at all,” he said.
“As is the case with any electoral roll in NSW or indeed anywhere, the electoral roll for the City of Sydney will also be publicly viewable to everybody.”
Mr Borsak said the Lord Mayor was “trying to muddy the waters” and “obfuscate” by suggesting his bill will pose practical challenges.
“The implementation of this bill will be very simple,” he said.
Local Government Minister Paul Toole said also said he was confident the bill would be simple to implement as a similar model has been used in the City of Melbourne for several years and has not posed practical challenges.
“These changes have been recommended by the NSW Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters following a robust and exhaustive 18 month inquiry into Local Government elections,” the Minister said.
“The Committee recommended that we adopt a model of non-residential enrolment based on the one that has operated successfully in Melbourne since 1993 to give businesses a voice that is more proportionate to their contribution to the City.”