Deputy Mayor Elections – Intimidatory?

Clr Peter Harle JP

Councillor Peter Harle JP

Liverpool City Council “elected” its Deputy Mayor at the General Council Meeting on the 30th September. I have no objections to the Councillor elected as the Deputy Mayor; however I do have concerns of the process used to determine the result. In my opinion it is a highly biased discriminatory process that may not result in the true intentions of fellow Councillors.
I had asked the CEO that the election of the Deputy Mayor be conducted via a “secret ballot” to ensure no direct or indirect intimidation could occur from a vocal audience in the public gallery and to a lesser degree by Councillors within opposing political parties.

My argument is that such a system intimidates and discriminates against the real wishes of Councillors and is used to “ensure” that “party members” do not deviate from a pre-arranged “caucus” plan. That, in my opinion, is undemocratic, highly discriminatory and should not be tolerated by ratepayers. That is another reason why I much prefer “Independents” in all tiers of Government, they are not tied to party ideology.

Actually, a “show of hands” used to determine whether or not the process should be via “secret ballot” or by a “show of hands” is discriminatory and intimidating in itself.

The Mayor opinionated that it should be “open and transparent”, in other words, no member of his party could deviate from prior “caucused” plans without risking being expelled from the party. A “secret ballot” renders “caucusing” ineffective. Hence the Mayors determined but hollow argument of “transparency”.

Sadly the practice is permitted under the current Local Government Act. I believe it should be repealed to prevent future acts of intimidation, discrimination and abuse as occurred at several Councils, the most recent was the controversial election of the Deputy Mayor at Auburn City Council. Supporters labelled as “thugs” by the media occupied the public gallery and shouted intimidating threats at Councillors voting against their candidate. The intimidation caused two Councillors to abstain from voting which resulted in a “tied” vote. The final result was determined by a “lucky dip” also highly undemocratic and totally unnecessary had a “preferential system” been used.

The State Government needs to change the legislation to ensure that any Councillor has the right to ask for a “secret ballot” to determine the election of the Mayor (for those not popularly elected) and the Deputy Mayor. The request should be in writing and at the request of the Councillor be kept confidential. The election should be based on a “preferential system” which prevents the highly undemocratic “lucky dip” process that is currently used by Councils in the event of a “tied” vote.

I have written to the Minister for Local Government asking that this matter be reviewed to prevent future abuses that I consider intimidating and undemocratic.

However, I suspect that similar requests have been made in past and have been ignored as it is NOT in the best interests of Major Political Parties intention to ensure that members “toe the party line”.

Clr Peter Harle
1st October 2015.

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