Candidates in the upcoming Moreton Bay Region Council byelection may have the opportunity to address the community at a live-streamed forum hosted by chief executive officer Greg Chemello.
Mr Chemello announced his intention to host the session at today’s Council meeting, saying the short turnaround between nominations for candidates closing and election day would make it challenging for residents to learn about candidates and what they could offer the community.
“It’s to give the residents of Division 7 the chance to listen to the folks who want to be their councillor (and) it will be at my invitation,” he said.
The byelection is the result of the resignation of Division 7 councillor and Deputy Mayor Denise Sims on October 20.
Ms Sims made the announcement on social media the previous night in an emotional video statement citing personal health reasons for her decision.
Polling day for the byelection will be on Saturday, December 4, with applications for postal voting closing at 7pm on Monday, November 22.
Early voting runs for two weeks from November 22 until Friday, December 3.
Mr Chemello told the Council meeting he intended to moderate the forum himself, with each candidate given a set time to make their pitch to the community.
His announcement caught Councillors by surprise, with Mick Gillam saying Council had never before been involved in an election process and Brooke Savige saying she didn’t support the plan.
“I would have appreciated some discussion on it,” Cr Savige said.
“Can we expect this level of organisational involvement in all elections moving forward?
“There always has, and always should be, a very clear delineation between the organisation of Council and the democratic process.”
However Mr Chemello said a byelection, with a tight timeline, differed from a normal Council election because regular elections were held every four years, giving candidates and residents more time to prepare.
“Because of the short timeframe of this one I think the organisation owes it to the public to facilitate a way the candidates can present their case to voters,” he said.
Councillor Matt Constance said he had significant concerns about the plan.
“I appreciate the intent but there are resident associations, progress associations, chambers of commerce that take this on,” he said.
Councillor Darren Grimwade asked whether such a forum should be the remit of Electoral Commission Queensland, which Council is paying almost $240,000, excluding GST to run.
Mr Chemello said he would seek the advice from ECQ.