15 February 2019

Ryan Goss of the ANU Law School has written the first comprehensive summary of the voting franchise at local government elections throughout Australia. Disturbingly, in most places, non-resident property owners and companies can also vote — and in Sydney and Melbourne, companies get more than one vote. Goss argues that the Queensland model, which gives one vote to each human resident who is on the State electoral roll, should be rolled out nationwide: “Local governments operate as an important form of government in contemporary Australia, and Australians should have an equal say in electing those governments and an equal opportunity to hold those governments accountable at the ballot box. … Allowing plural voting by those who own properties or those appointed by corporations is inconsistent with … notions of political equality as assigning to ‘each citizen an equal vote’.” This is an important issue. We should not countenance any amendment to include local government in the Australian Constitution — and certainly not with powers of taxation, as the Liberal Party has suggested — without a guarantee of fair council elections.