Our work monitoring local government elections would be a more difficult task without the assistance of the VEC, Victorian Ombudsman, IBAC and the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission. We are also thankful for the assistance and support of councils for sharing information and working with us to refer information.
We were concerned about a number of election trends, including bullying and harassment. A number of councillors interviewed for this report raised concerns that this behaviour would deter quality candidates in the future. However, some councillors we spoke to also believed that the public were able to see through this behaviour and voted for good candidates regardless of negative and toxic campaigning.
We hope the recommendations in this report are acted on in order to ensure a fairer democratic process in the next local government elections. We will continue to work with other government agencies to monitor trends in local government elections and help ensure a fair and democratic election process.
1. Section 69 of Local Government Act should be amended to require councils to adopt a caretaker or election period policy, which:
- is based on the model election period policy prepared by Local Government Victoria
- incorporates flexible election period policies which allows for misinformation to be corrected.
2. Regulation 24 of the Local Government (Electoral) Regulations be amended to require candidates to provide a financial records check providing proof of no current or past bankruptcies, a police clearance certificate and a 100-point identification check when nominating for election.
3. The Local Government Inspectorate consult with the VEC and have input into the electoral candidate handbook to ensure candidates receive simple information about:
- the rules and laws candidates need to follow
- how election material should be authorised
- what constitutes misleading and deceptive matter
- the Inspectorate’s role in electoral matters.
4. Updating of the definition of ‘electoral material’ in section 3(1) to encompass social media and other forms of electronic communication.
5. Section 287 of the Act should be amended to incorporate social media and other forms of electronic communication.
6. The Act should be amended to include clause 338 of the Local Government Bill 2019 to streamline the submission of campaign donation returns and improve transparency.
7. The Local Government Inspectorate should be resourced to adequately manage and scrutinise the campaign donation returns process.
8. The Act should be amended to give the Chief Municipal Inspector specific power to issue infringement notices.