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City Council to debate giving more businesses the vote

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Voting in Adelaide City Council elections would become compulsory for its ratepayers – and be extended to more businesses in the CBD – under a proposal to be debated tonight.

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Central Ward councillor Houssam Abiad says all ratepayers should have a say in who spends money on their behalf and that future State Governments should consider how to give city visitors, workers and all South Australians a say in the makeup of their capital city council.

Abiad has proposed a motion to lobby the State Government to change the City of Adelaide Act, to allow for compulsory voting at city council elections.

“We should have a majority involvement of our ratepayers,” he told InDaily this morning.

“If we can mobilise the 23,000 (ratepayers) we’ll be able to make better decisions.

“After that, we can look at the 200,000 (daily city visitors) and potentially the 1.2 million South Australians.”

Extending the franchise beyond the City of Adelaide boundaries is not part of Abiad’s motion, but he said it was something future Governments could consider.

Abiad said there was an “almost 34 per cent turnout” at the last city council elections.

He said councillors would be able to make better decisions if they represented a larger proportion of the ratepaying population.

Fellow central ward councillor David Slama was elected on the smallest number of votes among the elected members with 285 first preference votes, or 569 votes after preferences.

Slama does not intend to contest the next election.

Abiad said he would be a candidate at this year’s council elections, but that any change to voting arrangements was unlikely to be in place before then.

“This motion doesn’t impact me at these elections,” he said.

Abiad’s motion would also aim to enfranchise permanent businesses based in co-working spaces in the CBD.

“We’re seeing a lot of co-working spaces pop up (in the CBD). (Currently) they don’t have a say.”

Earlier this year, Abiad expressed support for a push by the Property Council to give businesses two votes each in city council elections.

Today, he said there needed to be a “balance” between residential ratepayers and business ratepayers because the latter pay about 80 per cent of the rates.

Abiad’s motion would also allow all candidates to have digital copies of the electoral roll, rather than be given a paper version.

“They give us thousands and thousands and thousands of pages that are printed,” he said.

“The printed form isn’t something that needs to be done.

“In a very digital world, it’s something that needs to be modernised.”

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