Magnetic Island North Queensland
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March 6th 2008
Imagine three councillors for Magnetic

If elected to council the Greens will push for a council of four divisions with three councillors in each.

"Having three councillors from a division will ensure that our council representative will remain diverse and more accurately reflect the Townsville community, yet make the election much less cumbersome," said Greens and Community Voices team candidate Gail Hamilton today.

In next week's council elections, Townsville voters are being asked to elect twelve councillors from a field of fortynine candidates, plus one mayor from a choice of five. For the first time in several decades Townsville Council will be undivided - meaning all voters have the opportunity to vote for all candidates - and there are no wards as in the past.

Ms Hamilton welcomed this change as an improvement in democracy. "In the past, we have had Townsville City Council dominated by one party, and because of the ward system it is possible that each one of those councillors may have had no more than 50% of the primary vote. That means 50% of voters do not have a chosen representative on council."

"An undivided council allows for a better representation of the community, and it is likely that the make-up of the new council will be a healthy mix of people," she said in a media release.

The electoral system is to be reviewed prior to the 2012 election, and Ms Hamilton was concerned that both incumbent mayors are promoting a return to the divisional system if they are elected.

"Single member divisions are inherently undemocratic and are biased toward major parties, leaving independents disenfranchised." However the 2008 system is also difficult for voters and candidates. "It is unreasonable to expect each voter to become familiar with the policies and personalities of fortynine candidates, choose twelve and successfully select them on a two foot long ballot paper," said Ms Hamilton. "It is also hard for each candidate to connect with over 100,000 voters in any meaningful way".

For these reasons the Greens see a Council consisting of four divisions overall, with three councillors elected for each, as a, "compromise. solution".

The Greens have also attacked the "first-past-the post' system of electing the mayor, asking for preferential voting. Ms Hamilton explained that "in such a system, a candidate could win with 30% of the primary votes even though the other 70% may have had that person as their least preferred. Optional preferential voting avoids that pitfall".

To add your comment, see below

Imagine three councillors for Magnetic
March 7th 2008
It's all very well for candidates in the Local Government elections to put forward their wish lists for a future electoral system but what about suggesting some sort of forum where these issues can be given an airing and then some sort of referendum (or equivalent) where we can support our preferred design. I agree with Gail Hamilton about the old one division - one councillor stack which has worked so well for the ALP in the old Townsville (post about 1980 when divisions were introduced) and I note the 'success' (in precluding that stack) that the old Thuringowa system seemed to produce. Can we do better than both? Certainly can we avoid allowing our politicians making the decision.
My preference would be to use the next four years of the new council to debate the issue, go to the next election in 2012 still with no divisions and hold some sort of plebiscite on the same day to decide a new electoral system.
Gail Hamilton
March 7th 2008
What a lovely idea to have 3 councillors for Maggie! Not quite what I meant though. Magnetic Is would probably still have to share its 3 councillors with inner city Townsville.
However, if I am elected in 2008, I will commit to moving to the beautiful Magnetic Island. My sister's husband Niall has graciously offered to look after my toddlers while I fill the full time job of councillor, on the condition that I move over there. What a deal! Too good to pass up. (The downside for Islanders is tht they would miss out on Niall's coffee)

What do you think? Send us your comments.

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