CANDIDATES for Bass Coast Shire Council… saddle up!

On advice from the Victorian Chief Health Officer, Professor Brett Sutton, local government elections will go ahead as scheduled for Saturday, 24 October 2020.

Bass Coast’s election, like all others, will be conducted totally by postal ballot.

“As Minister for Local Government, I sought advice from the Victorian Government Solicitor’s Office and Chief Health Officer as to how best to proceed while Victoria is in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Shaun Leane, Minister for Local Government and Suburban Development.

“I also engaged with the local government sector to fully understand concerns regarding the impact of current restrictions in Victoria on campaigning, and relayed that I would act on advice from the Chief Health Officer.”

He said the Chief Health Officer has advised that October represents a period when risk is likely to be substantially lower than at present, and there are no compelling public health grounds for the elections to be delayed.

“The Chief Health Officer has also worked closely with the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) and is satisfied that appropriate physical distancing, cleaning and hygiene and workforce planning have all been considered and integrated into the VEC’s COVIDSafe plans.

“The VEC have advised that election preparations are already well underway and that there are no administrative or procedural barriers to the election being held on 24 October 2020.

“This decision was not made lightly and is based on the best public health advice available – but I am pleased Victorian communities can have their say on their local government representatives at democratic council general elections as planned.”

He said a set of Safe Campaigning Guidelines have been developed in consultation with the Department of Health and Human Services to help candidates follow the Chief Health Officer’s directions and health advice during the campaign.

The guidelines include advice on how to safely conduct permitted campaign activities, safety for campaign teams, hygiene and physical distancing.

The Government has also launched its candidate training course online, which all prospective candidates will need to complete. It covers how councils are run, support available to councillors, the councillor code of conduct, conflict of interest guidelines and election donation rules.

The training course is one of a suite of reforms introduced through the new Local Government Act designed to enhance integrity and build community confidence in councils.

All candidates will also be able to provide voters with a 300-word statement in their ballot packs to be sent to voters. In a first for Victoria, councils will be elected by state-wide postal voting.

“I wish prospective candidates all the best for the upcoming campaign period and encourage all Victorians to make their vote count.”

There’s little doubt though, given the inability to hold public meetings and meet voters in person that the advantage is strongly with the sitting candidates.

Candidate training moves online

Bass Coast Shire Council has welcomed the announcement that mandatory Local Government Candidate Training will be conducted online.

Anyone considering running in the upcoming council elections in October must complete the mandatory training, in order to be eligible to nominate with the Victorian Electoral Commission.

A Council Spokesperson said that the mandatory training will be provided by the State Government, as part of the new Local Government Act 2020.

“It was anticipated that councils would hold face-to-face training, however, in the interests of community safety, the decision was made to deliver the training online instead,” the Spokesperson said.

The training will help potential candidates understand the role and responsibilities of being a councillor.

To complete the course, or for more information visit: http://www.localgovernment.vic.gov.au/council-governance/candidate-training.

For more information or help with the online training, please contact Council’s Governance team on 1300 BCOAST (226 278) or (03) 5671 2211.

What the MAV said

The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) is disappointed by the announcement by the Minister for Local Government, the Hon. Shaun Leane MP, of the Victorian Government’s decision not to defer the state’s council elections.

The MAV believes the October elections have been seriously compromised by COVID-19.

With the ongoing restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne and rural and regional Victoria, we face the very real proposed that many exceptional candidates will not nominate. Current stage 4 and 3 restrictions also make campaigning very difficult and costly.

MAV President Cr Coral Ross said it is incredibly frustrating that the State Government has not listened to the sector, and taken the common-sense decision to delay elections.

“We have been calling for a deferral of local government elections for months now due to the significant impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on free and fair elections.

“Minister Leane’s announcement today means that the elections will not have the quality and diversity of candidates that Victoria deserves.

“We know that not all councils were in favour of postponing council elections until 2021, but in the current environment and State of Disaster, it would have been a sensible and practical decision, for communities, candidates and councils”, said Councillor Ross.