The Tasmanian Liberals’ Bill to amend the Local Government Act to make voting at elections compulsory is a welcome support for longstanding Greens’ policy to strengthen our democracy, however we are concerned other necessary legislative reforms needed before October’s elections are also not included.
The Greens have previously attempted to change the Local Government Act to make voting compulsory in 2013, but this was voted down at the time by the Liberals in the Lower House. Despite lobbying by the Greens to include compulsory voting as a reform to the Local Government Act during this government’s 2019 review process, the final recommendations of that review do not include this reform.
While this reform and change of direction by the Liberals is undoubtedly positive, the Minister for Local Government needs to explain why he has chosen this singular reform, why now, and why not the rest?
Minister Street has ignored essential democratic amendments needed before the October elections, including one person one vote reforms, and changes to eligibility for voting on the General Manager’s Roll.
At a minimum, this bill should also include reforms to require a person to be Australian citizen to be eligible to vote, and to introduce caretaker provisions for local government elections.
The Liberal Government’s decision to hold off bringing the full suite of widely-supported Local Government reforms to Parliament until the conclusion of the Future of Local Government review is a backwards step for our democracy.
It is remarkable that key proponents for this change include the Tasmanian Chamber for Industry and Commerce and the Property Council, but the Local Government Association Tasmania has expressed concern at the lack of consultation with the sector.
The irregular move to interrupt Parliament’s budget process to debate this bill requires an explanation for why the other important local government reforms, which are widely supported and necessary to improve election-related matters, continue to be delayed