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Byron Shire
June 18, 2021

And they’re off and racing in Byron shire elections ….

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Michael McDonald assesses the line-up for the horse-race known as the 2016 Byron Shire Council elections.

Your mission, if you should choose to accept it, is to familiarise yourself with the Byron Shire Council candidates over the next three weeks and make your vote count on September 10. Vote like the health of the Shire depends upon it.

It’s a big field of runners for punters to choose nine councillors from – see Byron candidates announced. Some have form, some struggle when the going gets slippery and some are rank outsiders and unknowns.

But there’s no excuse – other than bone idleness – for not knowing what’s going on. Read your newspapers, go to the meet-the-candidates events, check out their web pages and, hell, go wild and interrogate them yourself. It’s a good way to find out, to paraphrase Clint Eastwood’s character the Outlaw Josey Wales, who’s pissing down your back and telling you it’s raining.

All the mayoral candidates have form. Simon Richardson is the personable Green who, in the wake of the vigilant Jan Barham, may have tried too hard to be all things to all people, and there were plenty of issues in his basket for ratepayers to get annoyed about. Rose Wanchap, well – she changed horses mid-stream and we all got wet. She runs under a Middle Ground banner while Alan Hunter is aiming for a Shire In Balance. It’s a mythical demographic just like The Silent Majority.

Hunter is probably more likely to pick up a large swag of the votes that former councillor Ross Tucker had a stranglehold on. He owns a farm, which is a big plus for some, and was preselected by the Nationals to run for the federal seat of Richmond in 2010. He picked up 17,146 primary votes against Justine Elliott’s 31,679, albeit in a 15.8 per cent swing against the Nats.

Our Sustainable Future’s Basil Cameron and Country Labor’s Paul Spooner are both bright men who can sustain a line of logic beyond just ‘I don’t like it’, which is handy when dealing with planning regulations. Labor’s overseas-detention-in-hellholes policy might weigh against Spooner for those who wish to take national issues into account.

Jack Sugarman is the perennial joker in the pack, but if you want Byron Shire abolished, he’s your man. Seven hundred and thirty people were convinced he was last time around.

As for councillor candidates, you have 29 to choose from. Why, you could pick and choose from each group voting ticket and the two independents to find the best and brightest or simply to avoid the dead wood and showponies. If you vote ‘below the line’ you control where your preferences go.

Democracy is not really a game, but it can be intriguing getting your head around all its subtleties and, after all, you’re paying for it. It’s certainly more relevant to a well-functioning society than finding Pikachu in Burringbar Street while playing PoGo.

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