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MAV renews call for State Government to defer local government elections

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The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) is once again calling on the State Government to defer this year’s council elections due to the ongoing negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on councils, communities and local businesses.

The ongoing pandemic has impacted the ability for candidates to campaign and consult with their communities on vital issues. Councils certainly don’t want to increase the public health risks to the Victorian community posed by COVID-19 through the election process.

The principle of ‘free and fair’ local government elections is under significant strain. There is a very real prospect of COVID-19 deterring many candidates from putting themselves forward to represent their community.

The simplest and fairest way to ensure the best outcomes for Victoria’s communities and councils is to follow NSW’s lead.

The NSW Government has delayed its council elections for one year until September 2021. This was not a decision taken lightly by the NSW Government, but as the pandemic continues to spread, it is becoming clear that it was the correct decision.

MAV President Cr Coral Ross and CEO Kerry Thompson met with newly appointed Local Government Minister, the Hon. Shaun Leane MP last Friday to raise this issue in person and address several other concerns the organisation has for the future of Victorian local government.

Cr Ross said that many councillors across the state have provided examples of the difficulties currently facing the local government sector and support the MAV’s push for a deferral of this year’s elections.

“Following a survey of all councils and CEOs earlier this year, the MAV called for a 12-month deferral of council elections, currently scheduled for October 2020.

“With the current increase in COVID-19 numbers and the subsequent wide-scale lockdown, we are calling on the Minister to reconsider holding council elections in October this year.

“Recent feedback has again highlighted the difficulties of ensuring a level playing field for candidates campaigning for election to their council.”

“Many rural and regional councils are highlighting concerns that some wards may not even have candidates prepared to run for election in the current environment,” said MAV’s Deputy President Rural, Cr Ruth Gstrein.

“Diversity is a key part of a well-functioning democracy. There is a significant risk that that many talented candidates won’t have the time or capacity to stand for council. This may be particularly true for women and people of diverse background.”

“Deferring local government elections to a time when there is the greatest choice of candidates of the highest calibre standing, is simply the most democratic thing to do – for council and community,” said MAV’s Deputy President – Metro, Cr Jami Klisaris.

“Postponing council elections until 2021 is a sensible and practical decision, for communities, candidates and councils”, said Councillor Ross.

“We have seen the NSW Government delay their elections for 12 months to provide certainty to councils, communities and potential candidates.

“We are calling on the Victorian Government to do the same.”

For further information, contact MAV President Cr Coral Ross on 0438 005 225 or the MAV Communications Unit on (03) 9667 5590.