LEADER: ECQ Commissioner Walter van der Merwe.
LEADER: ECQ Commissioner Walter van der Merwe. FILE

ECQ boss attends mayoral ballot draw, hails democracy

THE SIGNIFICANCE of the August 19 Ipswich mayoral by-election was driven home by the presence of Electoral Commission Queensland (ECQ) commissioner Walter van der Merwe at the ballot draw on Tuesday.

The past two months has been a turbulent time in Ipswich politics since the resignation of former mayor Paul Pisasale in June.

Eleven candidates have nominated for the mayoralty, a significant number when you consider numbers at the past three mayoral elections.

Mr Pisasale won four mayoral elections, the first in 2004. In 2008 he had Peter Luxton and Philip Luafutu as opponents. In 2012 Mr Luxton was the only candidate other than Mr Pisasale.

In 2016 the ballot paper had Mr Pisasale, Mr Luxton and Gary Duffy on the sheet.

The ECQ has a big job ahead of it for the 2017 by-election as Mr van der Merwe explained when the QT caught up with him before last Tuesday's draw. Mr van der Merwe said he was delighted with the number of candidates putting up their hands, and said the Ipswich event was also in good hands.

The QT asked how many ECQ workers would be engaged for this election.

"There will be several hundred because we have 44 polling booths,” he said.

"Ipswich is very large with 120,000 electors, the equivalent of three state electoral districts, which is significant.

"We will run the electoral event and we have a very experienced returning officer here in Peter Gordon.

"It will be an awesome event.

"I've come to witness the historic 11 candidates. It is pretty impressive for Ipswich in this mayoral election. We thought we might get five or six, but 11 is great.

"It shows people willing to participate in a democracy. There is obviously a lot of interest in it.”

The QT attended the draw and the consensus amongst the candidates was that this by-election was important for the city's future and also a sign that democracy was alive and well in Ipswich.

Mr Duffy told the QT that "the best part about this process is we have 11 fantastic candidates and we are seeing real democracy at work”.

Acting Mayor Paul Tully had the same assessment and praised the ECQ sending its top man to the draw.

"It is great to see such interest in the election and it is good to see that all of the ECQ is involved, from the top to the bottom,” he said.

"It was a first that they broadcast the draw live on Facebook and I assume the Commissioner wanted to see how successful that was.”

Cr Tully reiterated Mr van der Merwe and Mr Duffy's view about the significance of having 11 candidates on the ballot paper.

"It is democracy in action,” he said.

All 11 candidates except for Peter Robinson and Patricia Petersen were at the draw. Ms Petersen said she could not be at the draw as she worked on a voluntary basis for a legal service on Tuesdays and did not want to let the community down. Mr Robinson, an accountant, had work commitments with his Ipswich business.

Residents of Ipswich will notice the campaigns of all candidates ramp up today as pre-polling opens in three locations in the city and another in Brisbane.

Ipswich pre-poll locations are the WG Hayden Humanities Centre at 56, South St along with Unit1/14 Coal St, Bundamba and the World Knowledge Centre, 505 Sinnathamby Blvd, Springfield Central.

In Brisbane pre-poll votes can be lodged at Level 6, Forestry House, 160 Mary St in the CBD.

Mr Robinson said he was "looking forward to the next couple of weeks” as pre-polling stations opened.

"We are looking to have the three Ipswich pre-poll stations manned,” he said.

"After looking at the numbers pre-poll is around 10% of the votes and it is a way of getting your name out there.”

The QT spoke to Gatton-based social scientist Jeff Sommerfeld, who has worked on numerous political campaigns including that of LNP MP Ian Rickuss at the last state election, about the importance of pre-poll votes.

He said postal votes and pre-poll votes were crucial.

"A candidate who is really well organised and has a profile can really benefit from postal and pre-poll votes,” Mr Sommerfeld said.

"At pre-poll they will have the people available who will be able to sit there day-in and day-out.

"Pre-polls can be quite large and some of the most crucial votes. With regard to postal votes, at the last Ipswich mayoral election there were 8670 postal votes out of a voter turnout of 97,093,” he said.

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