Dodrill drops 'bombshell' ahead of CCC hearing
THE USE of how-to-vote cards by candidates purporting to be independent at the 2016 Ipswich local government elections is expected to be front and centre of an upcoming Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) public hearing next month.
The hearing, which also includes the Gold Coast and Moreton Bay councils, will investigate among other things whether candidates unlawfully "advertised or fundraised for the election as an undeclared group of candidates", an offence contrary to section 183 of the Local Government Electoral Act 2011.
Some candidates from the 2016 elections have contacted the QT to question the cross-promotion by candidates, councillors and Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale on how-to-vote cards and whether that constituted an "undeclared group of candidates".
Several councillors and candidates put out joint-how-to-vote cards while Cr Pisasale appeared on a joint-ticket with scores of candidates who ran as independents.
For instance, in Division 10 both Cr David Pahlke and his opponent Steve Franklin suggested voting 1 for Mayor Pisasale.
Cr Pisasale said he authorised the same thing to occur in Division 6 where candidates Cr Cheryl Bromage and candidate Cate Carter had done the same.
There were other instances of how to vote cards where one candidate preferenced another, as did Cr Kerry Silver in Division 3 when she had preferenced Danny Donohue.
Unsuccessful Division 3 candidate Jim Dodrill dropped a bombshell on Facebook on his own plans with his views of what happened.
" I have a mountain of evidence to give to the CCC in relation to certain 'independent' candidates in Division 3 and in other divisions," he wrote.
Mr Dodrill said a wide range of community figures would be "dragged into this".
The QT contacted Mr Dodrill to clarify what he was referring to but he said he would not be making any further comment than his Facebook post until after the CCC hearing.
To understand what "running as an undeclared group of candidates" means the QT spoke to UQ's Professor Graeme Orr, an expert in electoral law.
Section 178 of the Act makes it clear that how-to-vote-cards can be authorised by a candidate for a group of candidates. Section 179 states that the ECQ must give a written reason if it rejects such a how-to-vote card.
But Prof Orr said that just because those cards were approved does not put candidates in the clear by any means.
"The (former) CMC said in its report a few years ago on the Gold Coast that 'a group' has got to be more than just people who are ideologically simpatico or for strategic reasons agree to preference each other," Prof Orr said.
"(Candidates) were supporting Pisasale because he is an entrenched mayor.
"Pisasale is pointing out I presume that 'here are two competitors running as independents who are supporting me as mayor'. He would say that means it is not a group at all.
"If he was doing that in a co-ordinated way with a team of people in every seat that he wanted to get elected, that would get you into a group situation.
"If the how-to-vote cards were the tip of a larger iceberg and people were meeting and co-ordinating behind the scenes, sharing monetary resources and discussing the potential of working as a voting block that would take you over the edge.
"But candidates X and Z recommending you vote for Mayor Pisasale is not evidence of a group and the CMC has already made that point."
The QT spoke to Mayor Paul Pisasale and candidates who endorsed other candidates on their cards who all said they had their cards authorised by the ECQ.
Prof Orr said that Queensland's Local Government Electoral Act 2011 basically says if you are running as a group, you must register as such.
"The purpose of the law is to give electors what they need to know," he said
"If you advertise as independents, but you are running effectively behind the scenes as a group, that can be an offence.
"Co-ordinating and sharing resources I don't think would be enough (to constitute a breach) in itself because you could have a group of simpatico independents who might decide to go to the same printer and get a bulk discount.
"It wouldn't be enough to have a group of people who have a similar outlook, all from business backgrounds and who agree they might caucus in the future to make the council run smoother.
"You are digging for a co-ordinated campaign which could be evidenced by using the same lawyer, lobbyist or accountant to help fund-raise, sharing advertising slogans and stuff like that."
He said the Act was designed to ensure that electors were informed before an election of any groups of candidates that had formed.
"But to get that sort of evidence, if they are promoting themselves as independents, you have to go behind the scenes," he said.