This month Council has been forced to adopt a methodology and program plan to implement the undemocratic new business voting laws. Under this legislation, which I have spoken out against previously, the City will be forced to spend over $12 million of rate payers money implementing a system where businesses get to vote twice in Council elections.
The City recognises that the legislation which was slapped together by the Shooters Party and supported by Mike Baird’s Coalition will be impossible to fully implement. Unlike similar legislation in Melbourne, which itself has been broadly criticised and ultimately abandoned, the City of Sydney Amendment (Elections) Bill 2014 requires that the CEO of the City of Sydney keeps a record of all businesses who own, lease or otherwise occupy rateable land within the LGA fully up to date at all times. Given the resources required to collect this information, which have been described as Orwellian, and the high turn-over of businesses and sole traders from election to election. For businesses that don’t nominate who their two votes will be allocated to, the CEO must discover these organisations and deem two directors to go on the compulsory non-residents register. While the City can use the business rate payers register and ASIC company records these will not provide a full list of businesses operating in the City of Sydney.
As I have said in the past, these laws are no benefit to business in the City who were previously already able to vote in Council elections on a voluntary basis. Now many business owners and directors will find themselves with a fine for not voting if they do not participate in the Council elections.
The City’s implementation plan will involve a large public awareness campaign, including extensive door-knocking to identify businesses and provide them with information about their voting obligation.
The City has sought advice on the implementation of some of the aspects of this legislation and is still awaiting a response from the Department of Local Government. Worryingly, the flaws in this legislation may expose Council election results to legitimate legal challenges in future. With potential forced Council amalgamations also on the horizon it is a very uncertain time for the City