The Local Government Inspectorate is the leading integrity agency for Victorian councils.
We work with other government agencies help ensure a fair and democratic election process. Our responsibilities include:
- candidate eligibility
- advice to and monitoring the conduct of councils and candidates
- and assessing allegations
- investigations into potential offences under the Local Government Act (1989 and 2020 Acts).
The council election period starts on the last day nominations are accepted by the VEC and ends at 6pm on election day. The 2020 election period started on 22 September and ended at 6pm on Saturday 24 October.
However, our role in council elections started more than a year before election day and continued long after the closure of the official election period.
Electoral provisions are set out under Part 8 of the Local Government Act, which commenced on 6 April 2020, but some relevant provisions commenced on election day, 24 October 2020.
The complaints process
Elections in Australia allow for robust political debate and the expression of opinion. It is vital that complaints are received, assessed and dealt with swiftly to ensure fair and transparent elections. A swift process also reduces the opportunity for the complaints process to be manipulated and used as a campaign tool.
It is critical that substantive matters, that carry a risk to the system, are identified and appropriately investigated to determine the best outcome in consideration of the public interest. However, it is also important to quickly deal with complaints that are without basis, not in good faith and are low-risk offences caused by a lack of understanding, or a genuine mistake.
Impact of the new Local Government Act
The Local Government Act 2020 (2020 Act) delivered a range of changes to improve the transparency and accountability of local government, including electoral reforms.
Part 8 of the 2020 Act deals with local government elections and draws on reform proposals aimed at improving the democratic legitimacy of councils by:
- creating simpler and more consistent electoral structures
- modernising the council franchise and councillor qualifications.
Part 8 is the largest Part of the 2020 Act consisting of 11 divisions (including electoral offences) and 87 sections. It substantially reformed the local government election system contained in Part 3 of the Local Government Act 1989 (1989 Act).
While the 2020 Act aims to improve the local government election process, we want to see a number of amendments to further improve transparency and strengthen the role of the CMI to regulate the sector during the election period.