Change that Counts
City of Melbourne Electoral Review
I wish to express my support for the commission recommendation that the City Council be represented by a nine member city council elected as a whole in addition to the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor but with qualification as outlined below:
1. Terms of Reference
The terms of reference of the commission were overtly limited and as such prevented the proper and concise review of the representative model,
1.2 Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor positions
The review should have included as part of its terms of reference method the direct election of election and representation of the Lord Mayor and the Deputy Lord Mayor. By failing to do so has brought the review into disrepute.
The dual election of both Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor on a preferential majority of vote distorts the proportionality of the representational model, effectively giving 50% of the electorate a ratio of three to one. This goes against the principle of one vote one value.
It is my firm position that the positions of Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the City Council should be appointed from and by the elected City Council as a whole and not by a general plebiscite. It is essential that the City Council maintains confidence and support in its chairman at all times. The elected Council should have the right to dismiss the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor should they no longer maintain confidence of the Council. The City of Melbourne Act should be amended to provide clarity and a mechanism to address this issue. This could include a separation of responsibly of the Lord Mayor and the Chairman of the City Council.
Further, the legislative exclusion of candidates for the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor positions from nominating and standing for the general Council position is discrimatory and severely limits the rights of candidates to stand for public office and for electors to choose those who they consider best to represent them. There is no justification that merits their exclusion from running for both positions. If need be the Government should consider increasing the nomination deposit for each position to discourage frivolous or tactical nominations.
1.3 Order of the Ballot
Analysis of the 2008 Lord Mayor ballot shows that the current Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle, was elected on the strength of the so called “Donkey vote” determined by the order of the ballot, with candidates at the top of the ballot having a distinct advantage of candidates that securer a lower position.
This issue can be addressed by adopting what is commonly referred to as “Robson Rotation” where the order of the ballot paper is rotted in such a way that no single candidate maintains a poll position in the order of the ballot.
1.4 Internals Ward
Whilst it is the past practice to establish local electorates on the false premise of a geographical boundary representing “community of interest” that fact is that community of interests transcend geographical boundaries.
Decisions of the Council are made as a whole and as such it is preferable that the Council is elected as and whole and not divided into geographical wards.
Concerns of non local-representation as made in a number of submission is misleading. Any perception of lack of representation is a reflection of the existing representatives and procedures of the City Council not the electoral system. An unsubdivided, multimember proportional representational model increases the representation of the Council. The single member model conversely diminishes and distorts the extent of representation.
If local wards are to be introduced then it is important that each ward returns the same number of elected representatives. To this extent, a nine member council would be best served if there were three wards each returning 3 elected councillors.
It is acknowledge that is often difficult to draw internal geographical boundaries in such as away so to maintain a balance of equal representation and number of constituents. For this reason it is recommended that the City of Melbourne not be subdivide into local wards
An alternative to local wards is to implement a division of representation based on a voters mandate entitlement (Residents and non resident status) and electing Councillors according to their enrolment status. The review body should consider this as an alternative option.
1.5 External Boundaries
The review should have canvassed the need for a review of external boundaries. The City of Melbourne should be expanded to include the City of Yarra, Port Phillip and the former city of Prahran and the four state lower house seats of Albert Park, Melbourne, Richmond and Prahran taking into considerations of community of interest and economies of scale.
1.6 Method of voting
In considering any proposed representational model it is important that consideration is given to the method of voting and election.
Proportional Representation provides the best outcome of representation however the method of counting the vote as defined in the Local Government Act and Regulations distorts the proportionality and accuracy of the ballot.
The method of calculating the surplus transfer value and the distribution of preferences need to be reviewed. (See section below)
1.7 Above the Line voting
The method of “Above the line voting” used in the City of Melbourne election inflates the number of candidates who nominate with most groups nominating more candidates then can reasonably be expected to be elected. Further it allows for the predetermined allocation of preferences which in a local government context is not desirable although it is acknowledged that it does assist in the data-entry of ballot papers that record an “Above the line” vote. The “Above the line” voting system facilitates and encourages candidate groups to nominate as purely as tactical means of influencing the outcome of the ballot.
1.8 Method of fulfilling casual vacancies
The method of filling casual vacancies and count back currently implemented is seriously flawed. Over 6,000 voters were disenfranchised and their votes excluded as a result of the count back procedures used to fill the casual vacancy following the resignation of Councillor Clark. The value of Votes that remained on the table at the conclusion of the 2008 election were not taken into consideration. These votes should have been counted.
The current legislation provision only considers the ballots attributed to vacating candidate and in the process the candidate elected does not reflect the proportionality or intent of the electorate.
Analysis of the 2008 ballot indicates that the wrong person was elected to fill the casual vacancy as a result of this error.
This needs to be addressed if the community is to maintain confidence in the electoral process.
1.9 Integrity and scrutiny of the ballot
In 2008 THE Victorian Electoral Commissioner, Steve Tully, had interfered and undermined the independence of the returning officer. As a result the Returning Officer failed to adopt the provisions of the local Government Act that require the preliminary distribution of the ballot papers prior to the distribution of preferences. This severely limited the opportunity and quality of the scrutiny of the election. The preliminary distribution of preferences allows scrutineers to oversee the conduct of the election in an orderly sequential fashion, providing a means were a scrutineer can monitor the progression of the count. Whilst there is provision in the Act and Regulations for the Returning officer to vary the procedure used in an electronic count this does not necessitate or justify the refusal of the Returning officer to undertake a preliminary distribution prior to the data-entry and transcription of voter’s preference data.
Further more in the Chief Electoral Commissioner had compromised the integrity of the election by making allegations that were false and misleading in relation to the legitimate concerns expressed by members of the community as to the procedure of the counting of the ballot.
If confidence is to be maintained in the electoral process it is important that the returning office is independent from the direction or interference by the Chief Victorian electoral Commissioner. The Chief Victorian Electoral office has no legal to direct the returning officer in the fulfillment of their duties.