Single-member measure opposed
There is strong criticism of a Victorian Government plan to boost diversity in local councils.
Victoria’s Labor Government wants councils to move to single-member wards, as well as new standards of conduct and mandatory training.
It says these measures will help improve community democracy and make it easier for constituents to reach their local councillor.
Most Victorian councils are currently use multi-member ward structures with several councillors for each ward elected via proportional voting.
Local Government Minister Adem Somyurek wants only one councillor for each spot, except in some regional areas.
“What we're doing here is lowering the barriers to entry for new participants in the democratic process,” Mr Somyurek told the ABC.
A recent Victorian Electoral Commission review of the City of Boroondara, which has single-member wards, found multi-member wards can create a better chance of being elected for minorities.
But a survey by the state’s Local Government Association has found two-thirds of its members oppose the reforms.
Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam says the proposal may hurt her party's chances.
“This proposal from the Government, and the rationale from the Government, has very little evidence, very little to back it, which is why they're really baffled about why they are proposing this, because it doesn't make any sense,” Ms Ratnam said.
She said multi-member wards encouraged collegiality.
“What we don't want to happen is to move back to this idea of territoriality, which is you just fight for your own patch,” she said.
Ms Ratnam has written to councillors across the state to support her opposition to the bill.
City of Port Phillip councillor, Andrew Bond, wrote back: “Lazy councillors always get found out”.
“Had your Greens councillors actually concentrated on local issues, and engaged with their local community, and not state and federal issues, whilst ignoring the local community, this action by the local government minister wouldn't have been necessary,” Mr Bond told Ms Ratnam.
Mayor of the City of Darebin, independent Susan Rennie, opposes to the reforms, saying they have no rationale behind them.
Perhaps it's political, it's certainly not backed up by evidence,” Cr Rennie said.
She said her multi-member ward prevented party-aligned councillors from dominating council, leading to improved services for residents.
The draft Local Government Bill 2019 should pass easily through the Labor-dominated parliament when it is submitted.