Women who Mean Business selling Gippsland 's Finest
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Women who Mean Business ... selling Gippsland 's Finest Project

Do you have something to say about the Women who Mean Business Project? Has the project affected your life in some way? Has it helped your business along or helped you to develop self confidence?

Is there something about your community that is really bothering you and you feel you need to say your bit? Are you perhaps concerned about the stop to weekend Meals on Wheels?

Now's your chance to have your say and be heard. You can submit your article using the form below.

Fury on council electoral changes
By Jason Dowling
State Politics
June 26, 2005

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Candidates in local government elections would be banned from criticising councils or listing their how-to-vote preferences in candidate statements, under proposed changes to electoral regulations.

The changes, which have been labeled "undemocratic" in a stinging attack by the Municipal Association of Victoria, are expected to pass by August and will take effect for elections to be held for 54 councils in November.

Association president Geoff Lake said the proposed Local Government (Electoral) Regulations being introduced by the State Government would significantly help the major political parties and "cashed up individuals and people who have the backing of a large developer or significant business interest".

Under the changes, there would be a "discontinuation of candidate preferences as a component of candidate statements", which are mailed out to all voters in postal elections.

Most local government elections in Victoria are now held by postal ballot.
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Mr Lake said the removal of preferences would "disenfranchise voters, lead to a higher informal vote and would lift the barrier for entry to genuine independent candidates in the community that wish to stand for local government, particularly in rural areas".

He said in country areas it could cost a candidate up to $20,000 to post out their how-to-vote cards.

Candidate statements would also be banned from including "comments about the decisions, actions or performance of the council".

Mr Lake was incredulous that candidates would be curtailed from explaining why they were contesting the election.

"Why does anybody run for council who is not currently on there?" Mr Lake asked.

"It is normally because they believe there is something that has happened in the past that can be improved.

"So why should people be denied their right, their democratic, free speech right, to articulate their reasons for running for council, their concerns or complaints with how council has performed in the past and certainly their plan or approach for how they can improve that in the future."

Mr Lake said the process for introducing the changes was also flawed and "had been sprung on local government at the 11th hour".

Mr Lake accused the Government of not consulting fully with stakeholders or the community.

"This is not something that should be done on the run. There are serious democratic principles at stake," he said.

"Therefore the Government should simply extend the current regulations that are due to expire in December for another 12 months and have a more meaningful and in-depth dialogue with the community and the local government sector over the next year."

A spokesman for Local Government Minister Candy Broad said the Government encouraged all stakeholders to provide feedback on the proposed changes.

"All submissions will be considered in coming to a final decision," he said.

He said the changes had been discussed with the sector over a long period. "We are reaching the conclusion to what has been a major consultation process," the spokesman said

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