THEY say all politics is local - but when you vote in next month’s local government elections in Ballarat, will you know which political party your candidate is affiliated with?
Debate around the role of party politics in local government is a perennial issue in Victoria, with the majority of local candidates in Ballarat not declaring any party affiliation.
While some local government authorities in New South Wales require candidates to disclose party membership, local council candidates can win elections without voters knowing their true colours.
Outgoing councillor Cheryl Bromfield said many voters knew the affiliation of candidates based on their record and previous tilts at public office but those endorsed by parties should be up front.
“If you are running as a candidate for a party, endorsed by that party, you should disclose that to voters,” she said.
“But just because you are a party member doesn’t mean you are standing for that party. I have always believed local government is not the place for party politics because councillors are elected to achieve the best outcomes for their community and that may differ from official policies.”
Cr Bromfield said she was a member of the Australian Labor Party but had never stood as an ALP candidate.
It is widely regarded that four current councillors have Liberal Party leanings, while three have strong links to the ALP.
Party-endorsed Greens Central Ward candidate Belinda Coates said yesterday voters deserved to know where politicians stood on the issues.
“The Greens have a policy of candidates declaring their endorsement so people know going into election,” she said.
“Often people are not well known in the community and by declaring their party affiliations, candidates give the public more information on what they might stand for.”
Ms Coates said recent examples of national and state political issues being debated in the council chamber showed there was crossover, meaning some councillors could be bound by a party line.
She said the only official information was an optional disclosure included in the candidate summary sent to voters before the election.
“Hopefully the media in Ballarat will ask candidates and give them the opportunity to be up front about their membership or political leanings,” Ms Coates said.