On December 4, people across NSW will be voting for their representatives in Local Government.
But NOT on the Central Coast.
Here, unlike other citizens across the state, we’re not entitled to vote to select who will represent us on Council.
Instead, we are to be offered the sham of a ‘referendum’ [at a date to be determined].
But the referendum question is truly a howler!
It is not about the really pressing questions that local residents want to address: should the badly planned and costly amalgamation of the two previous councils be reversed?
Should the Council’s rates charged to all ratepayers be increased?
Should council assets be sold?
No, it is a complete red herring, on the number of councillors to be elected in future.
It is difficult to believe this is serious.
Under Commonwealth Law, a referendum is a vote used to approve a change to the Australian Constitution.
The rules are set out in Section 128 of the Constitution.
Importantly, the referendum question must start as a bill (that is a proposed law) presented to the Australian Parliament.
If, and only if, the bill is passed by the Parliament, can the proposal then be presented to Australian voters as a referendum.
This should take place between two and six months after the bill is passed.
To succeed, the vote must be passed by a double majority: a majority of the voters in a majority (at least four) of the states.
Voting is compulsory and can only take place after the Australian Electoral Commission has ensured that a statement of the proposed change and an authorised summary of both the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ cases has been sent to every Australian on the electoral roll.
On the Central Coast, there has been no bill passed by elected representatives.
There has been no debate by councillors.
There has been no call from the population for changes of the kind set out in our proposal.
No, this measure was decided entirely without public debate or consideration by any elected representatives whatsoever.
The scheduled referendum is not likely to save money, nor will it even be conducted by the NSW Electoral Commission.
Rather it is to be managed by a private company, for a cost of almost $2 million.
All this while an unelected administrator seeks to raise rates a record amount every year for the next ten years.
I’d like to say, ‘What a farce!’, but it’s much worse than that.
This is a serious affront to democracy.
If it’s not corrupt, it certainly has the feeling of a corrupt and dodgy deal about it. Something that one might expect in a poor third world country with a failed state rather than a democratic system of government.
It’s time for ordinary people to have a chance to elect representatives we choose ourselves, to implement reforms under a properly democratic process.
Without democracy, we are nothing better than a corrupt third world dictatorship.
Is there anyone who would prefer a system in which the powerful manipulate rules and procedures to their own benefit, while ordinary people pay increased rates for the privilege of paying for expensive ‘referendums’.
That’s a question we should be debating on the coast and putting to the vote in September.
Email, July 22
Michael Fine, Woy Woy