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Byron Shire
May 12, 2021

Page defends votes for businesses

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Outgoing Ballina MP Don Page has said he supports voting rights for businesses. (file pic)
Outgoing Ballina MP Don Page has said he supports voting rights for businesses. (file pic)

Hans Lovejoy

North coast councils have joined the outcry over proposed legislation by the NSW Shooters and Fishers Party supported by coalition government and aimed at ‘giving business a voice in local elections’.

The controversial proposal has been widely condemned by the entire opposing political spectrum, including the peak body representing NSW councils.

It follows another dreadful week for the NSW Liberal-National parties, which have seen more of their MPs resign over ICAC corruption investigations.

While the City of Sydney Amendment (Elections) Bill 2014 applies only to Sydney, critics say there are plans for it to be applied across the state.

Similar laws exist in Melbourne, and this proposal would give non-resident owners of rateable land two votes in local government elections.

In introducing the bill to Parliament on Thursday, Shooters and Fishers party MP Robert Borsak thanked broadcaster Alan Jones and the Daily Telegraph for their support.

Meanwhile, local NSW MP Don Page (Nationals), supports the idea but Local Government NSW (LGNSW) says the proposal came without warning.

Mr Page told The Echo the reforms will fix changes introduced in 1998 that created barriers to prevent non-residential voters from ‘exercising their democratic right’.

‘To be clear, businesses have always had the right to vote,’ he said.

‘Unfortunately, to do so they have to navigate through significant bureaucratic barriers within a three-month period. If they find a way through the red tape, they have to do it all again at the next election because the non-residential roll is deleted. No other Australian city deletes the non-residential roll after each election.’

Mr Page took aim at the lack of engagement on the bill, saying that, ‘Some who claim there was no consultation did not even bother to make a submission. Others that did are simply scaremongering.’

Mr Page also recited some of the Shooters and Fishers’ MP Borsak’s speech in parliament.

‘A person can only be enrolled once, meaning they only get one vote. A person who owns 20 properties in Sydney will only be enrolled once, not 20 times.

‘The reforms address an injustice that prevented those who contribute 78.5 per cent of the City of Sydney’s revenue ($188 million a year) exercising just 2.13 per cent of votes at the last election.’

But such voting rights could mean a return to the ‘nineteenth century voting rights based on wealth’, says NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge.

‘The NSW coalition has consistently shown that they follow the money wherever it takes them and that they believe developers and businesses should control the political process,’ Mr Shoebridge said.

With this Bill, the coalition is directly handing political control to corporate interests.’

NSW Labor’s Sophie Cotsis said, ‘Given everything that is being revealed at ICAC, it is unthinkable that the Liberals and Nationals are proposing these changes.’

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  1. As a member of the Jojnt Standing Committee on Electoral Matters I can say that this recommendation was opposed by Labor and the only support for this proposal came from the Liberal Party and the Business Chamber. Undue weight was given to the evidence of two first-term Liberal Councillors from the City of Sydney.

    The Committee received evidence from the City of Sydney that in order to raise awareness of the ability to enrol on the non‐residential and encourage participation in the elections, the City of Sydney requested that the Electoral Commission develop and undertake an advertising campaign.

    This campaign included: mail outs to over 80,000 individuals and business entities that may be eligible to enrol; contacting 125 property managing agents and requests that they email their clients with information about the ability to enrol; a dedicated call centre to field enquiries from prospective electors; and advertising in major metropolitan and commuter press. The cost of the campaign totalled $243,242.00 and was borne solely by the City of Sydney.

    Following efforts to boost enrolment numbers, 1,709 people enrolled to vote at the 2012 elections. This clearly demonstrated that there was little demand from property owners, business owners, and lessees to vote in council elections.

    This is an attempt to stop councils reflecting community values and concerns and is shameful.

  2. When this new feudal system comes in, who decides who can have two votes? Do we have a lord of the manner? maybe a Duchess of BS, or a Earl of slush funds? Can I get 2 votes because I own real estate? that’s how it used to be? Maybe the rich miner guy up the road with twice as much real estate, who already pays into your slush fund… maybe he’d like 3 votes? or 4? Since this LNP government came to power I have seen so much bullying of poor people and this is just another example of the Aristocracy being bitches! If you have a good reason to do something, than damned well explain it. Don’t use this sort of bully boy tactics, to get your own way. but looking at past performance it’s just another case of, I’m greedy and I want more… OF EVERYTHING! like a temper throwing 2 year old.


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