Following on from the announcement earlier this week that the NSW state government will support a bill from the Shooters and Fishers that will radically expand business voting for the City of Sydney, today the bill was introduced in the Legislative Council, after previously not being advertised or being presented for any consultation.
The legislation confirms that property owners, ratepaying lessees or occupiers are entitled to vote: corporations are entitled to two votes, and otherwise the number of property owners, ratepaying lessees, and occupiers who get to vote are capped at two.
The other key part of the law will automatically enrol voters for all those who are eligible to vote. This creates the effect of massively expanding the number of non-resident voters in the City of Sydney, possibly threatening Clover Moore’s hold on the position.
The bill does not limit voting rights to non-residents who actually pay rates, regardless of the absurd ‘taxation without representation’ argument from supporters of business voting. The proposal isn’t about giving voting rights to ratepayers, but giving voting rights to one particular sector that has a history of having a large amount of influence over most councils.
Outrageously, the law gives the government the power to expand these new rules to any other local council in New South Wales, seemingly on an arbitrary basis. The NSW government has refused to say which other councils could also see massive expansions in business voting, but there have been suggestions that Parramatta, Newcastle and Wollongong could see a similar imposition.
Some might say that the latest news at ICAC regarding the Lord Mayor of Newcastle suggests that business interests don’t need any more influence over councils, but it hasn’t stopped the NSW government.