Property and alcohol Czars eye control of City Council
August 27, 2014
Richard for 2011

No need to vote early and vote often ... City businesses and ratepaying owners will be able to vote twice under latest 'Get Clover' legislation ... Kate Lilly reports 

Borsak: now aiming at the residents of the City of Sydney

NSW Premier Mike Baird has shown no signs of abandoning support for legislation that will allow control of the City of Sydney to be transferred from residents to property developers. 

Shooters and Fishers MLC Robert Borsak introduced the City of Sydney Amendment (Elections) Bill into the NSW upper house on August 14. It seeks to give relevant business owners two votes, instead of one, on the basis that they pay greater rates than residents, so they deserve more say in how the money is spent. 

The proposed legislation requires the Sydney Council to automatically add eligible businesses to the electoral roll, potentially creating tens of thousands of new non-residential voters.  

In addition, a corporation that is the owner, ratepaying lessee or occupier of rateable land in the City of Sydney will receive two votes in local government elections.  

The Bill's opponents - including Lord Mayor Clover Moore and independent MP Alex Greenwich - have branded the changes as undemocratic.  

Moore and Greenwich: oppose the plan for non-residents to control the City Council

The legislation is seen as yet another attempt to 'Get Clover' and a grab for power by the very commercial interests that have landed the both sides of politics in so much strife at ICAC. 

Key supporters of the Bill include The Daily Telegraph and 2GB broadcaster Alan Jones – who Borsak credited as "a driving force for this change for a long time". Jones and the Telegraph have been critics of Moore's rollout of bike lanes across the city and Surry Hills.  

In his second reading speech, Mr Borsak said:

"Without [Jones'] assistance, I doubt whether the government would have been persuaded to support this sensible and long-overdue Bill."

Currently, non-residential ratepayers can choose to enrol before each election. 

Speaking in parliament, Borsak said just 1,700 business votes were registered in 2012 from a base of 80,000 eligible voters.  

He said the current system discourages business owners from enrolling, claiming:

"Regrettably, for many years now we have had a Lord Mayor inclined to run an anti-business agenda."

In justifying the extra vote for non-residential ratepayers, the Shooters' MP noted:

"A household only pays one set of rates, which is substantially less than what a business pays ... If businesses are forced to pay rates, those same businesses should have a say as to how those rates are used."

Meanwhile, Greenwich has introduced the City of Sydney Amendment (Business Voting and Council Elections) Bill into the NSW lower house.  

His Bill requires the Electoral Commissioner to keep a permanent register of non-residential ratepayers who are eligible to vote.

However, enrolment will remain voluntary and each business will only receive one vote. 

In his second reading speech, the independent member for Sydney said the two vote model would not strengthen democracy:

"Businesses already have greater rights to vote in the City of Sydney than anywhere else in the state.

"They need only operate for three months before they can enrol to vote, as opposed to three years in other local government areas.

"What they need is an easy way to get on the roll and stay on a permanent register."

He said that Borsak's Bill requires Sydney Council to maintain the electoral roll and argued: "No election would be free from claims of political interference and therefore remain untainted."

Greenwich has also asked the Independent Commission Against Corruption to investigate the circumstances surrounding the drafting of the Shooters and Fishers Bill.   

The debate is set to resume in parliament on September 9.  

See: Inside the 'Get Clover' plot from The Saturday Paper

Article originally appeared on Local news from postcode 2011 (http://postcode2011.com.au/).
See website for complete article licensing information.