Glenorchy City Council (Dismissal of Councillors) BILL No.61 OF 2017
Ms Armitage (Launceston) - Mr President, this matter has been covered fairly well by previous speakers. I also welcome and congratulate the member for Pembroke to the Chamber. Very well done. I am sure every member here is more than happy to give you any assistance or anything at all you need. Please ask us if you cannot find your way. When I was first elected I was told 'Remember to follow the red carpet because once you are on the green, you know you are in the wrong space'. Anything at all, please give us a call.
The opportunity is now for the people of Glenorchy to get it right. I appreciated the briefing this morning from the commissioner, Sue Smith, and the Government. Sue Smith has been doing a great job as commissioner and, like other members, we have all heard from many people who say they were very happy for her to stay in the role and continue as she has been doing. It was good to hear from Sue Smith, and the fact that when she first arrived a lot of people in the organisation, a lot of staff, did not seem to have the confidence they have now. They have lifted up to the mark. Many people found they were capable of more than they realised. That is really important.
That is one of Sue's strengths. When she was here she was a great mentor and someone who was wonderful in helping people to achieve their very best. I am sure that when the new council is elected a lot of people will be very sorry to see Sue go. She has done a wonderful job there.
It is important the community now has the opportunity and responsibility of electing a new council to guide the city into the future. It has been quite a while they have been on the path that they have been on and obviously it is time to make some changes and get back on track.
I was also pleased to hear that the local government department will be offering some workshops for prospective candidates. Not much time, but certainly well worth it to encourage people to let them see what they are in for. As we all know, sometimes what you think you are getting is not what you are getting when you get there. I am sure we have all had a steep learning curve, particularly those of us in this Chamber who have been on local councils. You think you understand it and then you get there and you are hit with all the planning issues and things you have never really dealt with before. It is a really great idea to have some forums that will give some idea of what might be coming up.
It is a really difficult time of the year for an election - to receive papers by 18 December when they need to be returned by 16 January. I have a real difficulty with that. Anyone receiving non-compulsory election material just before going on leave for the Christmas period, the difficulties they have with Glenorchy council will not be on their mind. What will be on their mind is that they are coming up to a Christmas break and there will be a lot of things to do. Some might be going away; some may be having family. They may have that envelope there and think, 'I have to fill this in'. I am not sure that it will be sent back before Christmas, even though it is arriving on 18 December.
In one of my previous elections many people said to me, 'Ah, meant to vote for you. I had that envelope, but left it on the windowsill'. That is when I lost by three votes and I probably had about 10 people who told me they meant to send it back but just did not get round to it. As it is a non-compulsory election, people do not have that same 'Gosh, I had better do it so I do not get fined'. The time of the year is an issue. Obviously, it cannot be helped and I am not sure whether there will be the turnout that there might have been if it was at a different time of the year.
I also appreciate, as was mentioned by other members, the slowness of Australia Post. I know that in Launceston, things can be posted on a Monday and might not be received until Thursday because everything goes via Hobart and comes back. I am not sure whether it goes into Hobart from Glenorchy and comes back out to Glenorchy. I am not sure how the system goes. At my own election - I am not sure whether it was the same with the member for Murchison, whether she heard the same or not - but I had many people telling me how long it took them to get their postal votes. The Electoral Commissioner sent them out but it took several days for people to actually get their postal votes received.
Mrs Hiscutt - Isn't this a debate for every local government election? It is the same for every local government election.
Ms Armitage - It possibly is, but the time of the year for this one with respect, Leader, is over the Christmas period. We hear all the time 'Post early at Christmas time because there may be delays' because of the amount of postage, with cards. I am not sure people send as many cards now, but we have in the past always heard Australia Post saying, 'If you are going to send something over the Christmas period, send it earlier, allow yourself more time'.
I do not know how it reflects so much within Tasmania, but all I am saying is that it could be a difficulty, particularly if people go on leave, if they have that envelope. There could be four people in one house, and there could be four envelopes sitting there, depending how many people of voting age live in that particular residence. If they are all going on leave and pop the envelope up on the windowsill, meaning to send it back or thinking 'I will fill that out when I get a chance', they may be gone for a couple of weeks.
Tradesmen and a lot of businesses finish and close for three or four weeks. I was married to a tradesman and we would finish the week before Christmas and not go back until late January. That was your holiday period when you went to the shack or you went away. A lot of people might think, 'Gosh, I've got that voting form at home', but then they will think, 'It does not really matter - it is not compulsory, I will not get fined'. That is a concern I have because of that period of time. I appreciate, Leader, that it is the same with every local government election, but they are not all held over the Christmas period.
I know the same argument is often made on local council to do with planning issues. Sometimes something for planning will come up just before Christmas and the six-week period for submissions may be during that period and many times people will miss it or not have the chance to get it in.
Ms Forrest - Or the government putting out a consultation paper, something consequential.
Ms Armitage - Absolutely, the same sort of thing. The member for Murchison is quite right. If those things come over that period, how often do we hear that people did not have a chance to get it in? I do not see it differently to this. I understand why it is in this period but I still see it is a difficulty that may occur.
I am not going to go into many of the areas covered by other members because it would purely be repetition. I believe it is time the people of Glenorchy had the chance to elect a council, to get back on with what they would like to see happening. I will be supporting the bill.