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Ward councillors are back on the agenda

31 May 2011

Docklands could get its own councillor following a State Government decision to review the City of Melbourne’s electoral arrangements.

The Minister for Local Government Jeanette Powell last month agreed to allow the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) to review some aspects of the way the council is elected.

The Coalition of Resident and Business Associations (CoRBA) has been agitating for the review and favours ward councillors rather than the current arrangement under which councillors are elected “at large” to represent the whole municipality.

CoRBA also wants an end to the exclusively postal voting electoral system which it says is open to fraud.  But Mrs Powell’s reference to the VEC does not extend to voting systems.

The Government says “governance processes and voting systems” are outside the VEC’s review but “remain under consideration by the Minister”.

The review will be completed by March 2012.

The president of the Docklands Community Association and CoRBA member Roger Gardner said: “The proposed electoral review is great news. Besides being supported by council itself, it is also fully supported by community groups throughout the City of Melbourne.”

“A possible outcome is the return of ward councillors which would be great. As a former Essendon/Moonee Valley councillor under the ward system I am well aware of the advantages of that system to residents,” Mr Gardner said.

The City of Melbourne’s electoral processes haven’t been reviewed since 2001.  The previous Labor government had consistently refused to review the arrangements.

“Following a request from the MCC and given that the Council’s electoral arrangements have not been reviewed since 2001 it is appropriate that a review be conducted,” Mrs Powell said.

“In the time since the last electoral review of the MCC was undertaken there have been substantial changes to the municipality with the incorporation of Docklands and parts of Kensington into the City.”

“The Coalition Government is committed to the maintenance of the most appropriate democratic electoral arrangements for Victorian councils.”

“The electoral review will assess whether the current number of councillors serves the democratic needs of the City of Melbourne and whether it should remain un-subdivided or be subdivided into wards.”

“Ensuring the most appropriate democratic arrangements are in place requires the MCC be subject to the same scrutiny as other councils,” Mrs Powell said.

Any changes to the City of Melbourne’s electoral structure would require an amendment to the City of Melbourne Act by the Victorian Parliament.

The MCC requested that other matters including governance processes and voting systems be considered by the VEC.

Those matters are outside the scope of a VEC electoral structure review but remain under consideration by the Minister.

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