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August 09 Edition Cover

Ken Ong offended by attempt to limit voting

27 Sep 2011

Malaysian-born Melbourne councillor Ken Ong took offence last month to an attempt to limit voting rights for newly-arrived Melburnians.

On September 6, Cr Jackie Watts proposed a number of changes to electoral processes including “increasing voter qualification period”, which Cr Ong interpreted as discriminatory.

In particular, Cr Ong took offence at supporting comments from North and West Melbourne Association spokesperson Bill Cook who suggested that newly-arrived students may not be capable of casting an “intelligent” vote.

Cr Watts’ motion was not supported by the council, but Cr Ong took the trouble to make a statement to the council about the matter when the council next met on September 13.

Cr Ong said the motion sought to “create an outcome which discriminates against not just international students but all recent migrants to Melbourne, an outcome which does not apply to any other municipality or state or even at the federal level.”

“I am a migrant, of Chinese heritage, born in Malaysia, who initially came to Melbourne as a student, and have since become a citizen of this country. My background culture may be quite different from the values of the community, according to the proponents of the notice of motion, and who may not be able to exercise an intelligent vote, I find this proposition or argument to have an underlying tone not consistent with our multicultural society.”

“It is most surprising to me that the residents of Carlton, North and West Melbourne, Southbank, East Melbourne and Residents 3000 as well as the Coalition of Residents and Business Associations and the Protectors of Public Lands have given their full support of a motion which clearly included a highly discriminatory proposition.”

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Comments

  • Guillaume at 4:52pm on 30/09/11

    To vote in Council elections you need to be on the Electoral Role. There are qualifications of citizenship to get on the electoral role. Simply put, if you qualify for citizenship you qualify to vote. So what seems to be the problem here?
  • Michael at 3:28pm on 12/10/11

    guillaume, the City of Melbourne is unique in that while the Commonwealth, State, and 78 of Victoria's 79 local governments require an elector to be over 18yo, lived for at least 1 month in the electorate, and be an Australian citizen, the City of Melbourne does not. The requirement for Melbourne is to be over 18yo and owning/renting in the CoM for 1 month.

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