A map of the final Ipswich City Council councillor divisional boundaries.
A map of the final Ipswich City Council councillor divisional boundaries.

Multi-councillor divisions could allow the buck to be passed

LARGER multi-member divisions could prove "confusing" for voters on election day and allow elected representatives to pass the buck once in power.

According to political analyst Dr Paul Williams, the changes introduced last year would also provide "more eyes and ears" to look out for wrongdoing.

In October, the State Government announced the Ipswich City Council local government area would be split into four larger divisions, represented by two councillors in each and a mayor.

The senior lecturer in the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Science at Griffith University believed if multi-member divisions were introduced at a state level, there would have been huge objections.

"It's potentially confusing and it's unfamiliar and inconsistent with what we understand is modern liberal parliamentary representative democracy," he said.

"I think it's a curious recommendation.

"I'm assuming they're doing it because they want to make complete overhaul of the system. Not just new members but a new system.

"I'm not sure how well the people of Ipswich will respond to it."

Dr Williams said having two elected representatives for one area could allow politicians to pass the buck in their division to the other.

"It questions the boundaries of accountability," he said.

"With whom exactly doest he buck stop?

"If you're a member for a single electorate, it's very concrete. You are the representative and you are answerable to the people. This is the problem with the Senate for example."

Dr Williams said having two councillors in one division could provide balance.

"You might find a conservative and a progressive elected in the same ward," he said.

"It might make for more consensus building in any council.

"It's not all bad but I would argue against it. It would confuse voters and potentially blur the lines of accountability."

An Electoral Commission of Queensland spokesman said the council conducted extensive community consultation last year and found multi-member divisions to be the preferred option.

"(The Local Government Change Commission) noted in its final determination report that a key community concern is a perceived lack of rural representation under the current arrangements and that multi-member divisions provide greater scope to have more councillors representing rural areas within the Ipswich local government area," he said.

"The Change Commission deliberated on the number of multi-member divisions that would best meet the needs of the Ipswich local government area. It was decided that four divisions, with two councillors each, would cater for the current council size, while providing scope to add additional councillor/s to all or some of the divisions as communities expand and voter numbers increase.

"The Change Commission made a concerted effort to unite suburbs and their communities within divisions where possible and sought to establish clearly identifiable boundaries that follow suburbs or roads.

"It was also noted in the final determination report, that having fewer divisions enabled larger amounts of rural areas to be placed within them, so that rural communities in Ipswich will have half the divisional councillors directly representing their areas."

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