South Gippsland Council’s return-to-elected democracy-election was packed with just about every possible extraordinary event, starting with one-third of the ballot papers being sent via Australia Post’s now normal snail mail service.
The unprecedented recall and reissue of these ballot packs added an extra week to the voting period.
Other extraordinary events included a malicious COVID scare that impacted me and anyone I associated with in the first week of the campaign; and a local member of Parliament who couldn’t help himself directing people how to vote while advancing his state election campaign on the back of the council election.
In this election, new avenues were used to reach voters in a COVID-safe way, some of which might become permanent features of future elections:
• Prom Coastal ACF grilled willing candidates about their views on the all-important subject of climate change.
• The Zoom meet-the-candidate sessions were by all accounts far more civilised than the rough and tumble of town hall meetings. While large areas of the community were unaware of the Zoom meetings, online access to the recorded sessions provided an opportunity afterwards to know more about candidates than was possible from the rather sterile candidate’s statement issued with voter packs.
• Craig Privett chose not to run in favour of compiling candidate podcasts which provided further convenient insights into councillor wannabes.
But there is no getting past the importance of face-to-face discussions and relationship building between voters and candidates during an election campaign. This is important not only for candidate awareness, but also to ensure voters – our community – have direct contact with those who put themselves forward to represent community interests and concerns and want to lead the council and CEO to better decisions and better services.
I want to thank everyone who gave me their trust, who voted for me as their first, second or third preferred candidate.
In the final count of first preferences, I fell short of by a ridiculously small margin – some 25 primary votes would have ensured I gained the distribution of voter preferences and became the third Tarwin Ward councillor.
I’m humbled by the community’s support and by the increase in primary votes that I received despite what was a personally gruelling campaign. Voters trusted my experience, commitment and honesty and I thank you all. The challenge for the new council will be to keep up the close contact with voters and make balanced decisions for the whole community, not just a chosen few.
Rosemary Cousin, Allambee South.