CONCERNS have been raised that Sydney’s LGBTI community could be the loser under a NSW Government-backed plan to mandate businesses to vote in next year’s council elections.
A bill by the Shooters and Fishers Party, supported by NSW Premier Mike Baird and due to be introduced to Parliament today, will look to compulsory enrol around 40,000 businesses in the Sydney local government area (LGA).
With a proposal to give each business two votes, it would see the business roll stand at 80,000 compared to a residential vote of around 100,000.
In an editorial for the Daily Telegraph, Robert Borsak, a NSW legislative council member for the Shooters and Fishers, accused Sydney state independent MP Alex Greenwich and Cr Moore of trying to turn the city into a copy of New York’s “hippie Greenwich Village.”
“The current regime in control of Town Hall view business as a necessary evil, hate the car and really only grudgingly provide service by way of penalty and fine,” Borsak said.
“Once a vibrant world capital, it now has lost much of its shine and vibrancy and is in need of a shot in the arm, something only a new electoral system can give it by delivering a new Lord Mayor and council.”
Greenwich told the Star Observer the plans would over represent the business voice, could see non-residents given the vote and diminish council’s commitment to LGBTI causes.
“It’s a system that would allow vested interests, including developers, to manipulate votes and will halve the votes of people living in the LGA,” he said.
“The City of Sydney is one of the government bodies in Australia most supportive of the LGBTI community and this support could be put at risk.
“Look at Mardi Gras — who knows if a council run by vested interests would consider that to be a pet project and to therefore cut funding.”
Greenwich said comparisons to the Melbourne Council, whose voting system it is proposed Sydney adopt, were worrying for the LGBTI community pointing out Victoria’s capital has a sister city agreement with St Petersburg where Russian police have quashed a number of pro-gay demonstrations.
The Sydney MP is due to table an alternative bill which, while making it easier for businesses to enrol on the electoral register, will not make it compulsory and will place restrictions on who can vote.
Sydney Liberal councillor Christine Forster said the voting reform proposals were in line with the findings of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters.
“The model works very well in Melbourne, giving both residents and business owners a say,” she said.
Cr Forster dismissed concerns about a future council reducing its support for the LGBTI community.
“Any person elected to council would be very aware of the hugely significant cultural and economic contribution the LGBTI community makes and I cannot conceive that any future council would not be supportive of such a large and important part of the constituency,” she said.
In a piece for Fairfax Media, Cr Moore wrote that the Shooters and Fishers bill was not about business voting: “[It] is about manipulating democracy and desperately trying to distract people from the Independent Commission Against Corruption and the corruption it has exposed between the Liberal Party and developers.”
(Main photo: Sydney’s Oxford St is the heart of the city’s LGBTI community. Image copyright: Star Observer)