Voting on whether Hume residents want Sunbury to stand alone as a municipality or stay with Hume council ends this Friday.
As scrutineers prepare for Saturday’s count, many commentators are posing the question: What happens if most of Hume wants Sunbury out but Sunbury residents opt to stay? The poll of voters was instigated by Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell to fulfil a Coalition 2010 election promise
Postal voting papers were sent to all Hume ratepayers earlier this month,
The ballot sparked angry comments in State Parliament last week from Labor’s Yuroke MP Liz Beattie, and a number of Hume councillors have reported confusion and anger among constituents about whether the vote is compulsory and why little information has been circulated about its ramifications.
Ms Beattie told Parliament she was disgusted with the lack of governance that put voters at such a disadvantage in making informed choices. “Tens of thousands of ratepayers and businesses across the electorate of Yuroke have received ballot papers with absolutely no explanation as to why and upon what they are being required to vote,” she said.
“This ballot is being conducted in a vacuum devoid of debate and explanation of the issues or implications of the outcomes of a vote that could see Sunbury secede from Hume. Many people have brought their ballot papers into my office to seek guidance,” she said. “A vague reference to the Victorian Electoral Commission website and a seven-word proposal is all that has been provided to electors.
“The fact that the only directive for information that is given is via a website is discriminatory to anyone without access to or understanding of the internet.”
Ms Beattie’s concerns have been echoed by a number of Hume councillors.
Craigieburn councillor Casey Nunn said she had been inundated with calls, emails and approaches on the street from people asking her opinion. “I haven’t even made up my own mind, but I am concerned for the financial implications for Sunbury people,” she said.
Cr Drew Jessop said he had presented background information outlining the pros and cons of Sunbury’s secession from Hume on Facebook, including a KPMG financial assessment that found Sunbury received good services from Hume and that rates would likely increase if the town stands alone, while rates for the rest of Hume would drop slightly.
On Friday, Mrs Powell said: “More than 118,000 people are registered to vote in the Sunbury poll, and I encourage all eligible voters to fill out their ballot paper and mail it back to make the [October 25] deadline.”
“The Sunbury poll, while not mandatory, is important and the government wants as many people as possible to participate.’’