Today the Local Government Bill will be debated in Victorian Parliament, and, if passed, will effectively wipe out independent and minority councillors in the local election later this year.
By legislating a single-member ward structure for every Victorian council, the Bill neatly sets up the Labor and Liberal parties to dominate the election and disadvantages all other prospective candidates.
The Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) has consistently advised against a shift to single-member wards for this exact reason.
The Bill would also increase gender disparity in councils. Recent data by the VEC revealed that 41.4 per cent of councillors in multi-member ward councils are women, compared to only 33.9 per cent in single-member ward councils.
Leader of the Victorian Greens, Samantha Ratnam, said that by introducing this Bill and its proposed ward structure changes, the Government was gerrymandering the system to see more Labor council candidates voted in come October.
The Greens and other members of the crossbench – including Andy Meddick MLC from the Animal Justice Party, Clifford Hayes MLC from Sustainable Australia, and both David Limbrick MLC and Tim Quilty MLC from the Liberal Democrats – will be fighting the ward structure changes when the Bill is debated later today.
Quotes attributable to Leader of the Victorian Greens, Samantha Ratnam MLC:
“Victorians deserve diversity in their councils. Moving all councils to a single-member ward structure will increase the likelihood that councils are controlled entirely by major parties and that decision-making is dominated by ward interests over the common good of the council area.
“The VEC has advised against a shift to single-member wards for a number of years, so it begs the question: what possible reason that isn’t dodgy or self-serving could the Government have for introducing this reform?”