Many would-be councillors running in this weekend’s local government elections across Northern Rivers are risking fewer votes by refusing to join group tickets.
Professor Brian Dollery from the University of New England’s Centre for Local Government said it was a growing trend in council elections for candidates to run on major party tickets or grouped together with like-minded independents.
“The analogy would be at the federal level with the senate elections,” Professor Dollery said.
“When you get a large number of people, the average voter would be aware of only some of those people.
“It is difficult, that’s why people affiliate with parties, because they get a huge brand advantage.”
Professor Dollery said the trend was most evident in regional areas like Northern Rivers that attracted high numbers of candidates
“In my view it’s an unfortunate development, especially with political parties, because if you think about the range of services offered by local government … it is much more limited and the scope for ideological disagreement of an overtly political kind doesn’t really have a place there,” he said.
“In a perfect world one would have independents who stand on specific issues and then people can make their minds up about that, rather than people affiliated with political parties whose policy platforms are designed for state and federal politics, not for local politics.”
‘I am running as a person’
Thirty-six candidates will vie for a seat on the Byron Shire Council, with just two running outside of a group and below the line on the ballot paper.
One of them is Matthew Hartley who said although he was worried about people voting “above the line” he did not consider joining a group.
“They’re running as groups because that’s the way things have been dragged,” he said.
“There are people running in groups who otherwise wouldn’t be there — they’re just there to make up the numbers.
“Traditionally parties did not run in local council elections, members of parties did, but the convention was that at local government level you ran as a person and you relied on how you were known and thought of in the local community.
“I am running as a person. At local government you should be voting for someone you know.”
‘You should make your own decision’
Taxi driver William Goode is the only ungrouped candidate running in the Lismore City Council election, which has 50 contenders.
He said he did not approve of the party politics in local government.
“I’m particularly concerned that we don’t get too much big party influence at this tier of government, which I think is more about representation of individuals on particular issues with no heavy dealings from the cities where the big parties are generally based,” he said.
Mr Goode also said he was not tempted to run on a ticket with fellow independents who may then have an expectation of continued support on council.
“I think even working on council, it’s a matter of not working in the old six-pack fashion where who you ran with you vote with,” he said.
“I think on each individual issue you should make your own decision.”
‘I felt honour-bound to do something’
Most of the Ballina Shire’s candidates are ungrouped, however it is spilt into three wards. The Ballina Shire C Ward has 10 candidates, including three grouped, vying for three positions.
Retired associate professor Sharon Parry is one of the ungrouped independents who has also refused to enter into any preference deals with other candidates.
She said she was inspired to run after being unimpressed by the performance of elected councillors.
“When I observed them at a council: they were mainly men waving their arms around, speaking aggressively and basically bullying people into agreeing with them,” she said.
“I just knew that on principle something was wrong and I felt honour-bound to do something about it.”
Source: ABC News