NSW Premier Mike Baird and Minister for Local Government Paul Toole have today welcomed the introduction of the City of Sydney Amendment (Elections) Bill 2014 which seeks to give business a voice in local government elections.
The Bill, to be introduced by the Shooters and Fishers, acts on a recommendation made by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, and will improve participation in local government elections.
The bipartisan Committee recommended introducing the same model of “non-residential” voting used by the City of Melbourne in the City of Sydney.
Under the changes, non-resident owners and occupiers are automatically enrolled, with up to two persons eligible to be enrolled. In contrast to current practice, they will also remain on the non-residential roll between elections.
“The current arrangements effectively disenfranchise a large proportion of those who pay the rates of the City of Sydney, and are most directly impacted by the Council’s decisions,” Mr Baird said.
“This is a fundamental flaw in the democratic system of local government elections which is denying many businesses a say in how their council is run, and one I intend to fix.
“Arrangements that have worked successfully in Melbourne should be able to be implemented effectively here, without excessive cost or inconvenience.
Mr Toole said eligible voter turnout at the 2012 election highlights the flaws with the current system.
“At the last election, only 1709 businesses enrolled to vote out of an estimated 80,000 that were eligible. This is despite business contributing 78.5 per cent of the Council’s rates.
“It is essential that we work together to remove any obstacles that get in the way of people exercising their democratic right,” Mr Toole said.