Scenic Rim Mayor fears voting reform could break down the essence of local government

CONCERNED: Scenic Rim mayor Greg Christensen believes moving from discretionary preferential voting to compulsory preferential voting to align with political agendas could break down the essence of local government which is community.

CONCERNED: Scenic Rim mayor Greg Christensen believes moving from discretionary preferential voting to compulsory preferential voting to align with political agendas could break down the essence of local government which is community.

SCENIC Rim mayor Greg Christensen is opposed to the state government's plan to introduce compulsory preferential voting into local government elections.

CONCERNED: Scenic Rim mayor Greg Christensen believes moving from discretionary preferential voting to compulsory preferential voting to align with political agendas could break down the essence of local government which is community.

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Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchcliffe said the main benefit of changing from discretionary preferential voting to compulsory preferential voting would be having consistency across the three levels of government.

"I believe this would provide simplicity and a greater understanding for voters," he said.

"No matter which election they are turning up for, whether it is federal, state or local, there will be consistency across these formats... which would aid people's engagement in the political process."

Cr Christensen said he did not support the move because it would not reflect what happened in regional councils.

"One of the great strengths of local government ... is that they offer a collegiate and community connected focus towards performance delivery," he said.

"Anything that disrupts this and moves the focus of local government elections to the alignment of political agendas would, in my view, be a retrograde step.

"My great concern is to the minister's intent, given the focus on compulsory preferential voting, is that he may be embarking on a legislative agenda to bring local government into line with the politically-driven inefficiency and ineffectiveness that is our Queensland and federal parliamentary systems, which, in my view, would be disastrous.

"It would serve to break down the essence of local government which is our connection to the community, not politics."

Local Government Association of Queensland president Mark Jamieson said the Crime and Corruption Commission’s Belcarra investigation and Soorley review into the conduct of the 2016 local government elections did not recommend changes. 

Cr Christensen admitted preferential voting played a key part in the last mayoral election but he said it was based on people exercising voter discretion.

"I do think local government should have been consulted," he said.

Mr Hinchcliffe said stakeholders had raised the issue of compulsory preferential voting and it was to be the subject of consultation with them before being taken back to Parliament.

"The reason for the level of engagement that we are undertaking with the stakeholders now is about having these changes well and truly in place ahead of the 2020 local government elections," he said.

A Logan City Council spokesperson said the council had not been consulted on the issue.