The changes could see voters filling out every square on Senate-style ballot papers.
The changes could see voters filling out every square on Senate-style ballot papers. David Nielsen

Reforms could mean ratepayers fork out $700K per election

SNEAKY, ridiculous and costly were the words numerous Mackay councillors used to describe the proposed statewide reforms to local government voting methods.

The reforms could result in Mackay voters filling out every square on Senate-style ballot papers almost half a metre long at the next council election and be without representation for several months during an election.

Mackay region mayor Greg Williamson and councillor Amanda Camm will travel to Brisbane next Tuesday, to protest the proposed change and two other motions to be put before a Local Government Association Queensland conference.

Cr Williamson said the state government had tried to sneak the changes through with no public consultation and in a very short space of time.

He said if the changes were not blocked, ratepayers could be forced to fork out up to $700,000 to run an election and pay $1.57 per vote for all candidates who secure at least four per cent of the vote.

"We support everything around being transparent and open but what we are dealing with now is the government tacking on a few motions to go to the state government to be part of legislation that changes the voting regulations and the voting of all local government associations in Queensland,” Cr Williamson said.

"That would mean that the senate style voting, which is proportional representation, would come into play for council elections. You have to number, in the last election, 1-37 candidates to get 10 out of them and if your numbering is wrong, your vote is invalid. It is just ludicrous to be able to force this upon us. Nobody wanted it, it has just come out of the blue.”

Cr Williamson said the changes would politicise local governments, giving the state government greater control over them.

The council was united in their stance on the issue at the general meeting yesterday, with Cr Camm, Cr Martin Bella, Cr Karen May and Cr Justin Englert all speaking on the matter.

Cr Camm said she questioned the state government's motives on transparency.

"While there are a number of motions that we support, there are some absolutely sneaky changes to legislation in electoral reform,” she said.

"The real challenge around this legislation is there has been no community consultation and the minister's (Sterling Hinchliffe) poor effort of consultation with councils, had him sit in this chamber and basically dictate what was going to happen and was quite sneaky about it. And now we see a lack of transparency from the state government.”

Local Government Minister Sterling Hinchliffe early this month told the Daily Mercury the state government was engaging with council and were seeking to put forward a proposal that ensure the number one thing that determines the outcomes of local government elections was voters.