Wollongong mayor criticises mandatory voting

Business owners already have enough influence over Wollongong City Council and should not be forced to vote in the 2016 council elections, Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery has said.

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery.

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery.

His comments come as the NSW Parliament's joint committee into electoral matters, led by Kiama MP Gareth Ward, pushes for compulsory voting for non-resident landlords, business owners and corporations to be introduced at local elections.

The committee's report says the model used by the City of Melbourne should be mandatory in the City of Sydney, and be considered for other large council areas, such as Newcastle, Wollongong and Parramatta.

Someone who is a resident and business owner cannot vote twice.

Cr Bradbery said he did not agree with mandatory business voting, as it would skew the focus of the council away from the interests of residents.

"Council should be dominated by the majority of interests in the city, and that means the needs of the residents," he said.

"I don't think ratepayers who are not residents of the area should [be forced to] vote, because they could sway or influence things when they don't even live here."

Corporate property owners already had many ways to engage with the council, including the economic development unit or through industry groups and the Illawarra Business Chamber.

If the model was adopted in Wollongong, extra business electors could significantly change the composition of the council and the outcome of the mayoral vote.

Wollongong council was unable to provide figures on the number of eligible non-residential voters by the Mercury's deadline.

However, a spokeswoman said only 20 non-resident owners of rateable land had applied for inclusion on the non-residential roll for the 2011 election.

Also included in the joint committee's recommendations is a bid to allow NSW voters to cast a ballot at the next state election without leaving home. The panel says the "iVote system", which allows electors to vote using the internet, should be used for all council and state elections, as it would help boost voter turnout.

However, voting experts say the system is open to abuse by hackers and should be used with caution.

Mr Ward said the measure, if made available to all voters, would be an Australian first.

"When you live in an era with new technology, you've got to take advantage of it," he said.

"There are still people not showing up on polling day . . . I passionately believe people fought and died for the right to vote and that people should, regardless of their view, cast a formal ballot."


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