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Call for council election change

A low turnout of voters was seen across the state.
A low turnout of voters was seen across the state. Claudia Baxter

THE Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) has called for control of local elections to be removed from Electoral Commission Queensland (ECQ) and handed back to councils.

The call comes after Queensland council elections experienced one of the lowest voter turnouts on record in only the second poll to be conducted by ECQ since council amalgamations in 2008.

In Ipswich, about 20% of enrolled voters failed to cast a vote, compared to a normal Queensland non-voter tally of 5-10%.

LGAQ spokesman Craig Johnstone said it was clear after two polls, control should be at least offered to councils that want it.

"Our position is this is the second time ECQ has conducted every council election and we think there is enough evidence for councils to at least be given back the autonomy to decide how they conduct their elections," Mr Johnstone said.

"Some might want the ECQ involved, some might want to do it themselves."

Mr Johnstone said while turnout was slightly up on 2008 it was well behind what is acceptable.

He said regional council areas such as the Lockyer Valley were more severely affected, with only postal votes being accepted.

"There was a lot of confusion around, particularly where there were full postals," he said.

"We've heard anecdotal reports of people wandering around trying to find a polling booth on Saturday."

Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale supported the LGAQ stance, confirming he would prefer to have had the Ipswich City Council organise the local election.

Cr Pisasale cited a lack of advertising, poor polling booth locations and under-resourced staff as key factors in the low turnout.

"I think the responsibility should be handed back to local government," he said.

"We can do it a lot more effectively.

"We're paying for it so why can't we have matters in our own hands.

"It's run by independent bodies within the council anyway."

The re-elected mayor said the poll lacked the organisation of previous elections but applauded staff who worked under difficult conditions.

"There were two pre-polling booths in Ipswich before the election and they were 500m from each other," he said.

"Why wouldn't you have a pre-polling booth in the eastern suburbs, let's be fair dinkum.

"The returning officers at the local level did a fantastic job with the resources that were given to them.

"I'd rather have council employ Peter Venning and we can do a more effective job next time."

Topics:  council election, craig johnstone, local government association of queensland


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