By MERRILL WITT
If you’re thinking the coronavirus pandemic has thrown our liberal democratic order into disarray, you’re not wrong!
On Weds 25 March the Minister for Local Government, Shellley Hancock, announced that the Sept 2020 local government elections will be “postponed to address the risks posed by the COVID-19 virus.” In all likelihood, they will be pushed back to September 2021.
The move has been welcomed by community groups and local elected representatives. Lucinda Regan, a Woollahra Councillor affiliated with the umbrella independent group Residents First, said that she wasn’t sure if “independents can even get their message out. There is too much change for people now, without having to ask them to think about politics.”
Maria Bradley of the community action group Keep Sydney Beautiful believes the current crisis will make people realise the importance of electing governments that are willing to put community interests ahead of developers and other vested interests. “It’s time we took advantage of our democratic system to encourage local leaders, community workers, volunteers and other problem solvers to stand in local council elections,” she says.
The delay also gives the state executive of the Liberal Party extra time to decide whether the Party wants to ban property developers and real estate agents from standing for preselection.
To date, the Government had failed to respond to an Opposition bill seeking to ban party members of these occupations from standing for council. Greens MP David Shoebridge is not confident the upper house bill will be debated any time soon given the Government’s push to adjourn Parliament until 16 September. “Parliament must continue to meet and exercise its democratic functions,” he said.