A severe blow to council election rigging has been struck by the Victorian Electoral Commission. Candidates’ how-to-vote information is now excluded from the mail-out that will be sent to each voter before the October local government elections.
The Victorian Legislative Council had on 31 August “disallowed the regulation prescribing indications of preferences at local council postal elections,” the VEC stated.
“As a result, candidates are no longer able to lodge an indication of preferences for inclusion in the ballot pack mailed to voters.”
This is undoubtedly causing anguish and urgent conclaves across the peninsula as seasoned “preferences whisperers” – practitioners of the dark art of directing preferences to candidates – discuss how to get how-to-vote information to voters at the lowest possible cost.
Vote manipulation has been a deep concern to the VEC, especially in council polls where voting is by post instead of at polling booths, as occurs in state and federal elections.
The VEC mail-out has inadvertently encouraged the use of “dummy” candidates – those who stand for election merely so their preferences can be directed to the whisperer’s real candidate. Occasionally a dummy has won, then resigned immediately on a pretext.
Remember Senator Ricky Muir, motoring enthusiast? He got into the Senate with just 17,122 (0.51%) first preference votes in 2013. He actually turned out OK. But lost his seat in July.
On the true-blue Mornington Peninsula, vote whispering has been the almost exclusive preserve of the Liberal Party, which regards the federal seat of Flinders as its natural, impregnable bailiwick. Rarely do the peninsula’s three state seats of Mornington, Nepean and Hastings, succumb to Labor.
Bandicoot had the experience recently of getting an instruction, perhaps a diktat, from a senior peninsula Liberal, who exhibited the manner of Attila the Hun, ordering the Coot take down a picture that displeased him, of his boss and a pretty little bandicoot. Coincidentally, it suited the Coot to so so.
More recently, a post on the Bandicoot Facebook page was removed after an anonymous complaint. Bandicoot had had the impertinence – the presumption! the gall!!– to describe then environment minister Greg Hunt as “minister for the environment and coal”.
That’s what got this website revved up and rocking. Anonymous complainants are impotent against this electronic fortress!
But … what prescience Bandicoot has! New minister Josh Frydenberg has been made minister for the environment – and energy! Well, that clears up for doubters Canberra’s environmental sincerity.
Lucky Josh: he’s responsible for climate change and the number one cause of carbon emissions and therefore global warming. Neat! Well done, Mr Turnbull. Is that a smut in your eye?
(I won’t be taking this down, Peter. I promise. Free speech and all that. I’m sure you believe in it.)
While most of the shire’s 11 councillors would (if asked) vigorously assert they are independent, several have close, quite intimate, Liberal links, through family and close friends.
Others have what one might describe as backgrounds conducive to conservative inclinations. That’s part of the warp and weft of a vibrant society. Vive la difference! Bandicoot values his friendships across the political landscape. Never a shortage of arguments.
With the slamming-shut of the VEC route to advising people how they should vote, candidates and whisperers must resort to old-fashioned methods such as advertising in newspapers, telephones, social media and large signs in front yards and paddocks along freeways.
To raise money, seek a sling from a favourite uncle, a bit of sausage-sizzling and raffle-running, then foot-slogging to drop flyers in letterboxes – candidates might even resort to meeting and greeting people in shopping centres.
The good news for the VEC is that, with printed flyers estimated to cost some $5000-$6000 per ward, and tepid support from friends, many “dummy” candidates may lose their taste for battle and retire from the fray.
That will achieve the VEC’s purpose and ease voters’ problems with large ballot papers littered with the names of unknowns. Cr Tim Wood faced 16 rivals in the Red Hill ward byelection two years ago, many from well outside the ward’s borders.
Six years earlier, in the notorious non-poll, when six of the shire’s 11 wards were uncontested, Cr David Jarman handed over “his” seat to fellow Rotarian Frank Martin. Cr Martin walked into council with not a vote cast for him and almost achieved the distinction of holding a council seat for six years with never a ballot paper defiled.
Cr Martin, rumoured to be considering a run in Briars ward this October, faced two opponents in 2012. He won but was forced to retire because of ill health in 2014. Such are the vagaries and vicissitudes of political life.
So, candidates, take Bandicoot’s sage advice. Make up your mind, declare your intention, and start campaigning now. Acquire a ward map, convene an election committee, formulate your policy, scrub down the sausage-sizzling BBQ, and get your running shoes on!