By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Greater Dandenong mayor Jim Memeti has dismissed calls to postpone October’s council elections due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Municipal Association of Victoria has called for the State Government to follow the lead of NSW, which postponed elections until September 2021.
The MAV argued the virus’s impact put ‘free and fair’ elections under “significant strain”. It limited candidates’ ability to campaign and consult with communities, it stated.
Cr Memeti, who is on a mayors’ advisory panel for the Local Government Minister, said there were still opportunities to campaign by letter-box drop and social media.
Postal voting as well as online mandatory candidate training reduced potential public health issues, he said.
He noted elections, such as in North Macedonia, were still being staged around the world.
“I can’t see it being postponed.”
Under stage 3 lockdown, some new candidates may be disadvantaged by not being able to doorknock, Cr Memeti conceded.
“Where candidates can do more work is with letter box drops and social media, which will probably play a greater part in this election.”
Outgoing councillor Matthew Kirwan, who is supporting Greens candidate Rhonda Garad, said the lockdown was particularly unfair to new candidates.
“It makes it very difficult to engage residents in a local government election which doesn’t have the greatest profile at the best of times.
“This is particularly the case when there are significant changes with the introduction of single councillor wards and postal voting rather than attendance voting.
“It is important that residents are engaged on who is going to represent them when councils have so much impact on the everyday lives of residents and the liveability of where they live.”
MAV president Coral Ross, who met with recently-installed Local Government Minister Shaun Leane, said many councillors supported the MAV position.
“Recent feedback has again highlighted the difficulties of ensuring a level playing field for candidates campaigning for election to their council.”
Deputy president Ruth Gstrein said “many talented candidates” wouldn’t have the time or capacity to stand for council due to the pandemic.
“This may be particularly true for women and people of diverse background.”