The Victorian Electoral Commission is due to publish the final report for the City of Melbourne Electoral review on Wednesday (March 21, 2012).
The preliminary report had recommended that the City Council representation be increased by 2, excluding the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor the number of Councilors would increase from 7 to 9. The initial recommendation proposed that the City continue to be elected as a whole.
Melbourne City Councilor, Jackie Watts, in a misguided direction opposed the increase in representation and proposed a reduction in democratic representation in order to establish Local Wards that she mistakenly thinks will increase her chances of election .
The criticism of the City Council is an indictment against the current Councillors and Council administration and the system of franchise and the direct election of the Lord Mayor and its external boundaries.
The problems highlighted by Cr Watts and some residents groups would not be addressed by the solutions advocated by Cr Watts. Cr Watts herself was elected not on merit but as a result of the flaw in the way the State Government counts the votes. Over 6000 votes were ignored in the count-back that followed Councillor Clarke’s resignation . 6,000 votes that should have been counted but were not.
The Kensington Association submission is worthy of consideration. They have rightly supported the “City as a Whole” proposal with the fall back of a 3 x 3 ward option as being the most democratic. They also highlight the divisons within the Residential community. Residnets represent 40% of the City electorate and the City Wide model, like it or not relfects that breakdown although it is distorted by the system of direct election of the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor.
Sadly the real issues effecting the City Council will not be looked at as the terms of reference of the Commission was restrictive. It prevented the consideration of alternative solutions that would help address the many perceived problems surrounding the City Council. Those problems will still remain.
Hopefully the Commission will not compound the problems by supporting Cr Watts ill-conceived proposal.
Tomorrow we will know what the final recommendation is. We will not be holding our breath. The Commission has made many inconsistent recommendations in the past and we see no reason why they would break that model.