DESERTED: Pre-polling at Rockhampton show grounds was very differernt today.
DESERTED: Pre-polling at Rockhampton show grounds was very differernt today.

Latest CQ news on pre-polling and the COVID-19 threat

PRE-POLLING centres around Central Queensland looked starkly different today after new rules were brought in to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Early on Saturday morning Electoral Commission of Queensland banned local government candidates and their campaigners from canvassing outside polling booths.

The ban includes forbidding candidates from shaking hands with electors as they enter or wait to enter a polling booth.

Failure to comply carries a maximum penalty of $1334.50.

When The Morning Bulletin investigated pre-polling underway at the Rockhampton Showgrounds, there were no visible candidates or their campaigners acting in their usual role of greeting voters and distributing how-to-vote cards.

Instead, the steady flow of early voters were greeted by placards of their candidates affixed to the surrounding walls and fences, leading one local to declare that it “should be like this all the time”.

The ECQ directive follows a ban issued on Thursday on handing out how-to-vote cards and other electoral material.

ECQ’s commissioner Pat Vidgen said the ban would reassure voters that heading to the polling booth would be as quick a process as possible.

With more than 120 booths open across the state from 9am today in the lead-up to the official council elections next Saturday, Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the ban would help minimise social interaction.

“This is the first time in history Queenslanders will be able to vote two Saturdays in a row, including the official election day next Saturday,” Mr Hinchliffe said.

Mr Hinchliffe said Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young had advised that it was still safe to hold the council elections.

He said Dr Young had advised the risk of contracting COVID-19 at a polling location was still low.

“People will be frequently entering and exiting the environment, spending little time in static close contact, which reduces the risk of spread of COVID-19,” Mr Hinchliffe said.

As of 5pm yesterday, about half a million Queenslanders had already cast their vote at a ballot box and more than 540,000 had applied for a postal vote in an effort to avoid exposure to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia have topped 960, with additional 83 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in NSW in 24 hours, taking the state’s total to 436.

Queensland has recorded another 37 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, taking the total number cases in the state to 221.

While it was the third highest daily number of cases since the outbreak began, it continues a downward trend of new cases after 50 were recorded on Thursday and 40 on Friday.

It remains unclear if any of the new cases were found in the Capricornia region with Rockhampton still only having one confirmed case at this stage.

Queenslanders in home quarantine as a result of COVID-19 will be able to access advice, information and support through the Queensland Government’s Community Recovery Hotline.

Today Minister for Communities Coralee O’Rourke announced the hotline had been activated by the Queensland Government to support people who have been advised to quarantine at home by a medical professional, Queensland Health or through government direction.

Minister for Communities Coralee O'Rourke . Picture: Shae Beplate.
Minister for Communities Coralee O'Rourke . Picture: Shae Beplate.

“Most Queenslanders have been self-reliant and made their own arrangements for their period of quarantine,” Ms O’Rourke said.

“However, we know that some people who are in quarantine aren’t able to organise the delivery of essential food and medications they may need.

“These Queenslanders are now able to phone the Community Recovery Hotline on 1800 173 349.

“Our staff will be able to work with partner organisations to arrange non-contact delivery of essential food and medication to people in quarantine who have no other means of support.

“The Community Recovery Hotline may also be used by people who chose to self-isolate to ask for social and emotional telephone support.

Mrs O’Rourke said the Community Recovery Hotline was currently intended to help the most vulnerable Queenslanders in quarantine.

“At this time the hotline is only for people in quarantine, and only for those who have no other support mechanisms,” she said.

“Queenslanders who require health advice or information while in quarantine or self-isolation should call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) or visit health.qld.gov.au/coronavirus.”

For more information visit https://www.qld.gov.au/community/disasters-emergencies/queensland-disasters/novel-coronavirus-covid-19

Where to vote for pre-polling:

  • Gracemere Community Centre, 6‐9 Barry Street, Gracemere
  • James Lawrence Pavilion, Rockhampton Showgrounds, New

Exhibition Rd, Wandal

  • The Green Shed, 36 Thompson Avenue, Mount Morgan
  • Yeppoon Town Hall, 25 Normanby St, Yeppoon

The full direction by the Electoral Commissioner regarding changes to pre-polling:

  • All persons are prohibited from canvassing for votes or distributing how-to-vote cards or election material at a polling booth. This applies to ALL polling booths in Queensland;
  • All persons must abide by the social distancing rules for gatherings of less than 100 people;
  • All persons attending a polling booth must maintain hygiene standards, in accordance with Queensland Health guidelines;
  • All persons must not shake hands, or attempt to shake hands, with electors as they are entering or waiting to enter the polling booth
  • If candidates, political parties, or other electoral participants wish for their how-to-vote cards and/or election material to be available to electors, the material must be provided to the booth supervisor. The material will be displayed at the polling booth, in a way deemed appropriate by the booth supervisor. A minimum requirement is that how-to-vote cards and election material must be displayed in ballot paper order, as far as practicable. Candidates, political parties or other electoral participants must not interfere or obstruct the booth supervisor or other ECQ staff enacting this direction;
  • Candidates, political parties or other electoral participants must not interfere or remove how-to-vote cards or election material once they are displayed by the booth supervisor or other ECQ staff.

ECQ staff will be actively monitoring compliance with this Direction. The Electoral Commissioner has the power to issue further directions, in the event ECQ staff observe noncompliance.

Failure to comply with this Direction carries a maximum penalty of 10 penalty units, currently valued at $1,334.50.

All existing laws and regulations regarding canvassing for votes at a polling booth continue to apply, including those relating to exclusion zones.

2020 COUNCIL ELECTIONS

Rockhampton candidates:

Mayor: Margaret Strelow and Chris Hooper

Councillors

  • Division 1: Shane Latcham, Vince Robertson and Sherrie Ashton
  • Division 2: Neil Fisher and Gavin Shuker
  • Division 3: Tony Williams
  • Division 4: Ellen Smith
  • Division 5: Cherie Rutherford and Peter Anderson
  • Division 6: Drew Wickerson
  • Division 7: Noeleen Horan and Donna Kirkland

Livingstone Shire candidates:

Mayor: Bill Ludwig, Andy Ireland and Lynelle Burns

Councillors: Andrea Friend, Leah Grice, Nigel Hutton, Adam Belot, Pat Eastwood, Rhodes Watson, Glenda Mather, Leo Honek, Tanya Lynch, Keith Sully, Scott Tarratt, Stephen Bird, Athol Keanalley, Mathew Peach, Mike Decman

Early voting opens on March 16, closes at 6pm on March 27

Postal vote ballot papers close on April 7 at 5pm

Election day: Saturday, March 28, 8am to 6pm



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