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PUBLIC CONCERNS: CQ’s voters are worried about the COVID-19 threat of infection while voting in the upcoming local government election with four out of five poll respondents saying they would prefer the election be delayed to allow for more postal voting.
PUBLIC CONCERNS: CQ’s voters are worried about the COVID-19 threat of infection while voting in the upcoming local government election with four out of five poll respondents saying they would prefer the election be delayed to allow for more postal voting.

No election delay despite strong opposition from CQ public

DESPITE a Morning Bulletin poll finding the majority of CQ community members were supportive of delaying the Local Government Election and increasing postal voting, the Queensland Government is continuing to act on latest expert advice saying it was still safe to proceed.

With the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic growing by the day, the Queensland Government suspended parliament to rush through laws allowing them to have greater flexibility in dealing with the virus, including the contingency options of delaying or cancelling the election or conducting it entirely through postal ballots.

A non-scientific poll conducted on social media yesterday asking the people of CQ whether they thought the Queensland Government should delay the election and possibly conduct it entirely by postal vote attracted a hugely one-sided response.

Of the 2700 votes tallied, 78 per cent of respondents were supportive of the government acting to delay and modify the way the election was conducted to lessen the risk of spreading the virus through the community.

Rockhampton MP Barry O'Rourke said nothing was more important than the health and safety of the community and that's why his government would always act on the best and most up-to-date medical advice.

"The Chief Health Officer (Dr Jeanette Young) has been very clear that local government elections are okay to proceed," Mr O'Rourke said.

"If that advice changes, so will our response but people can take advantage of extended pre-poll hours to cast their vote right now if they wish."

Minister for Local Government Stirling Hinchliffe and Rockhampton MP O'Rourke are continuing to act on expert advice saying it was safe to vote at the local government election.
Minister for Local Government Stirling Hinchliffe and Rockhampton MP O'Rourke are continuing to act on expert advice saying it was safe to vote at the local government election.

Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the Public Health and Other Legislation Amendment Bill allowed the Government and the Electoral Commission of Queensland to better respond to the latest expert advice as it emerges.

He said the amendments meant the ECQ was be able to give directions about significant issues, including how-to-vote cards and canvassing at polling booths, greater flexibility around postal and telephone voting and options around the election date.

When a spokesperson for Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's office was questioned why the government wasn't moving immediately to act on their legislation change to delay the election and make it a Queensland-wide postal vote, they said it would only be considered if the advice changed from the Chief Health Officer but there were logistic problems associated with a postal ballot only situation.

Attorney-General of Queensland Yvette D'Ath said the most important thing when it came to postal voting was supplies.

Rockhampton MP O'Rourke and Minister for Justice Yvette D'Ath.
Rockhampton MP O'Rourke and Minister for Justice Yvette D'Ath.

"These envelopes have secret markers for integrity. They are not the sort of envelopes that everyone can reproduce quickly," Ms D'Ath said.

"The supply chain has been hit by what has happened globally. The suppliers cannot supply us en masse large numbers of those declaration envelopes."

Even if they were able to distribute postal votes throughout the state, she said the people who were self-isolated would not be able to get to the post office to post them hence why it was important to put other options in place like telephone voting.

Local Government Association of Queensland president Mark Jamieson was confident the election would go ahead as planned but said if the State Government was forced to delay the election, then ­councils believed the date should be pushed back to March 27, 2021.

"We have faith in the good sense of the 3.2 million Queensland voters to continue to vote early and to stagger attendances on the actual polling day on March 28," Mr Jamieson said.

Around 270,000 people have already cast a vote at pre-poll and 540,000 people have applied for a postal vote.

Late yesterday, Keppel MP Brittany Lauga responded to the issue saying it was her job to ensure her local community has the most up-to-date advice that is based in medicine and science.

"I've been reassured that the government and the ECQ is acting on the latest advice of medical experts to help keep our community as safe as we can," Ms Lauga said. 

"It's important to note measures have been put in place to spread the number of people attending a voting booth at any time.

"In fact, more than 32,000 Central Queenslanders have already cast a vote at pre-poll."

CENTRAL Queensland residents have shared their opinions on whether next week's local government election should be delayed and incorporate postal voting to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 infection.

Donna Stenhouse: Yes definitely. Who wants to be touching pens and paper that don't get sanitised after every single person touches them and the booths? Everything would have to be done with very strong sanitiser. Everything else is cancelled from the council so why not voting and 1 I did care about keeping myself safe as in hygiene etc I look after elderly as a job.

Kerrilyn Page: No - because there are ample pre-polling booths set up everywhere with loads of extending operating times. It is not limited to one day of voting only.

Will Carnue: All using the same pencils in cardboard booths that suck up the fluids our body expel. Gonna wipe a cardboard box 10,000 times? One pencil in mouth you're not going to be happy.

Fiona Coleman: I have been trying for days to get through on the phoneline for postal or phone voting because the website crashed so I couldn't register. I am immuno compromised and will not be going anywhere. I'm not even seeing my family so I'm definitely not going anywhere near strangers. If I get a fine for not voting I won't be paying it.

Margaret Balchin: I had the same problem (not being able to get through to the ECQ) so I'm not voting and will not be paying a fine. If everyone doesn't vote then they would have to have another election and this time make sure we can all get a postal vote.

Lorelle Phillips: It is really no different to going to the supermarket where every item you touch is touched by a minimum of one other person.

Lyn Hughes: Even though my partner and I have already voted, yes I think they should put it on hold.

Jana Richardson: Every household should be mailed a postal vote. Only takes brains to think of that.

Chris Sinclair: Its 2020. (We) should be able to vote online as an option.

Nicole Waldron: It should always be done by postal vote.

Elizabeth Cullen Hoolihan: Plenty of hand sanitiser available at pre-poll in Yeppoon yesterday. Wear a mask to protect yourself. With only 10 days to polling day, it's too late to change anything.

John Sealy: (Hand sanitiser is) good for hands, you can't use that on a cough. Besides not going means we are following our government's rules on social distancing. It's not too late to cancel and difficult to get masks since people are panic buying.

Step Holden: If they want people to actually front up and vote with confidence then every one of the booth staff better be wearing gloves, masks and be sitting behind a glass screen handing out vacuum sealed single use pencils, otherwise it's just another hypocritical do as we say, not as we do.

Glenys Kirkwood: Vote early. Use hand sanitiser. Rocky showgrounds almost deserted.

Pauline Brownlie: I'm thinking of paying a fine for not voting. They have cancelled everything else why not this?

Gayle Vea Vea: Why don't people just go to showgrounds and vote? Beautiful healthy weather, great breeze.

John Sealy: Pre polling still means going to where people are gathering and possibly contaminating the polling booths

Graham N Roberts: You can still go and vote, while keeping social distance. No one said you have to stand with your nose behind the ear of the one in front of you. When you're finished placing your mark, clean your hands.



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