If the Motto is "Let's get it done" why is the Minister for Local Government, Shelley Hancock sitting on her hands and not reinstating Council elections 2020? If federal by-elections can happen in July why can't council elections happen two months later in September?
In a media release issued today the Shadow Minister for Local Government Greg Warren said "Communities right across the state continue to face confusion and uncertainty whilst the Minister for Local Government, Shelley Hancock, refuses to make an official decision regarding the date of council elections. "In March this year the Local Government Act 1993 (the Act) was amended to allow the Minister - by an order of the published Gazette - to postpone the elections by 12 months from the date of the order.
"However, the Minister has failed to actually make the order.
"There have been recent suggestions that the elections should proceed in September 2020. as originally planned due to the easing of social distancing restrictions - rather than being postponed until 2021.
The Shadow Minister for Local Government said "regardless of what side of the debate people stood on everyone needed certainty." "More than two months after Minister Hancock was given the power to postpone the upcoming council elections, she has failed to actually make any official decision", Mr Warren said.
"To date Ms Hancock's tenure as Minister for Local Government has been plagued by indecision and its communities who continually pay the price.
"Candidates don't decide to run a day before polling booths open and elections aren't planned the night before.
"Appropriate polling venues need to be located and leased out. and most importantly communities need certainty around who will be their councillors both in the short and long-term.
"It's budget time for councils and they need to know whether to allocate funding for an election in 2020/21 or 2021/22," Mr Warren said. "I can understand the arguments from both sides of the debate but what I cannot fathom is a Minister who doesn't have enough conviction or backbone to make a decision and stand by it.
"Communities. candidates and councils need answers and they need those answers now." Mr Warren concluded.
Shadow Minister for Local Government Greg Warren ********************** On the 25th of March the NSW Minister for Local Government, Shelly Hancock said "The NSW Government has made the regrettable decision to postpone the September local government elections for 12 months in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic."
"The decision to postpone them has not been taken lightly but is necessary to ensure the health and safety of voters, NSW Electoral Commission staff and election candidates."
"The decision follows Parliament passing amendments to the Local Government Act to provide me with the power to postpone the elections."
The key sentence here is "to provide me with the power to postpone the elections". The FACT IS that while the Minister for Local Government says "The NSW Government has made the regrettable decision to postpone" they HAVE NOT actually officially actioned that meaning they could actually change their mind today and reinstate the original September 2020 elections. Offering clarity around the issue Mr John Davies, Manager, Council Governance for the Office of Local Government explained in a letter, responding on behalf of the Minister, dated May 21st 2020 saying in full: "Thank you for your email of 18 May 2020 to the Minister for Local Government, the Hon. Shelley Hancock MP, about the postponement of the local government elections. I have been asked to respond on behalf of the Minister. The Local Government Act 1993 has been amended to confer on the Minister, a time-limited power to postpone council elections. The amendment (section 318B(1)(a1)) operates for a limited period of 12 months. It allows the Minister, by an order published in the Gazette, to postpone elections for 12 months from the date of the order where the Minister believes that, having regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is reasonable in the circumstances to order the postponement. The order may be extended for an additional period to 31 December in the year after the order is made. While an order is yet to be made under section 318B, the Minister has announced that the next local government elections will be postponed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision to postpone the elections, which has been made on the advice of the NSW Electoral Commissioner, has not been taken lightly but is necessary to ensure the health and safety of voters, NSW Electoral Commission staff and election candidates. I hope this information will clarify the situation. Key to the response above is the element "While an order is yet to be made under section 318B" Note that The amendment (section 318B(1)(a1)) allows the Minister, by an order published in the Gazette, to postpone elections for 12 months from the date of the order . With that in mind and with the continued lifting of restrictions around Covid-19 by The Premier it is now clear that the Minister can NO LONGER believe that, "having regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is reasonable in the circumstances to order the postponement."