Photo Renee Albrecht/ GYmpie Times
Photo Renee Albrecht/ GYmpie Times

Plea for full postal vote amid fears of corona outbreak

AS CORONAVIRUS concerns grow across Australia, Bill Ludwig has made an urgent plea to Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on behalf of the region's councils to extend postal voting statewide.

These councils include Livingstone Shire, Banana Shire, Central Highlands Regional, Gladstone Regional and Woorabinda Aboriginal Shire.

Cr Ludwig did not speak on behalf of Rockhampton Regional Council.

It comes after Rockhampton recorded its first coronavirus case on Thursday, when a man, 60, tested positive after travelling to the region.

Queensland yesterday recorded its biggest single-day jump in coronavirus cases, taking the number of people detected with the virus to 61.

A Noosaville, Queensland woman, 77, was the latest Australian to die from the virus.

In an open letter to the Premier, the Livingstone Shire mayor made the 'urgent request in response to community safety concerns relating to risks presented by COVID-19'.

"I write to you on behalf of the Central Queensland Organisation of Councils requesting your urgent consideration of our request for you to make representation to the Electoral Commission Queensland to consider the possibility of changing voting to full postal across the state, or at the very least extending both the issue and receipt of postal votes by a minimum of 7 to 14 days," Cr Ludwig said in the letter.

"This request is made in view of concerns voiced in our respective communities about the genuine risk of transmission of Covid-19 at polling booths in Central Queensland and in other areas statewide."

Cr Ludwig said a change to full postal voting was the preferred option to maximise safety­.

"Extending the date for postal votes would go a long way to providing our communities with a safer option from the exposure to risk that the mass gatherings and close contact of queuing in confined booth spaces will pose to each and every person attending," he said.

"Congregating for compulsory voting in a crisis time of this nature comes with an absolute assurance that undiagnosed people, who are carrying the Covid-19 virus, will likely be presenting at polling booths somewhere in Queensland over the next two weeks.

"It would defy logic to suggest otherwise.

"While our councils are mindful of the importance of the local government elections, we are also fully cognisant of the calls being put out by the World Health Organisation in the last 48 hours for all governments to take every step and precaution possible to protect our communities from transmission of this insidious and life-threatening virus.

"This request is made to you in absolute good faith that you will take a 'zero tolerance' approach when a simple avoidance solution such as postal voting is readily available to minimise that risk."

Cr Ludwig said the people of the Central Queensland community put their trust in their councils to advocate on their behalf.

"We in turn put our trust in your government to use sound judgment when a reasonable request like this is made," he said to the Premier.

"If this measure can both ease the concerns of an understandably apprehensive community, while at the same time proactively slowing down the spread of Covid-19, it should be made available to our communities and every other community in Queensland.

"We trust your government will err on the side of Queenslanders' absolute right to be able to vote with zero risk.

"In doing so we ask this question:

'Is it better to delay the election result for a week or a month by extending postal voting, or require people with genuine concern for their safety to either take the risk of going to potentially unsafe public polling booths, or being disenfranchised by not voting at all for fear of possible infection?'

"We trust that community safety will take precedence in this case and appreciate your consideration on behalf of our collective communities and other communities who will no doubt be sharing similar concerns over this matter."

A spokesman for Ms Palaszczuk's office said the Premier was aware of Cr Ludwig's concerns and was working through them.

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