Emergency legislation has been pushed through that could dramatically change the Cairns Regional Council election in light of the coronavirus crisis.
Emergency legislation has been pushed through that could dramatically change the Cairns Regional Council election in light of the coronavirus crisis.

New coronavirus powers in place for council election

EMERGENCY legislation allowing the Electoral Commission of Queensland to ban how-to-vote cards, extend postal and telephone voting and potentially change the local government election date has been pushed through.

Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the new powers would only be used if expert advice deemed them necessary.

He said the latest medical advice deemed there was no need to change the March 28 date for the council elections.

How-to-vote cards at the Cairns Showground pre-poll booth. PICTURE: STEWART McLEAN
How-to-vote cards at the Cairns Showground pre-poll booth. PICTURE: STEWART McLEAN

"We don't take these steps lightly," Mr Hinchliffe said.

"Local government plays an essential role in delivering services and supporting communities, and we need to ensure these needs are being met.

"We will always listen to the latest exert medical advice and act on that advice."

The amendments mean the ECQ will be able to give directions about significant issues how-to-vote cards and canvassing at polling booths, postal and telephone voting, and options around the actual election date.

Ministers Stirling Hinchliffe and Kate Jones. PICTURE: AAP IMAGE/CLAUDIA BAXTER
Ministers Stirling Hinchliffe and Kate Jones. PICTURE: AAP IMAGE/CLAUDIA BAXTER

Local Government Association of Queensland CEO Greg Hallam welcomed the commitment to the March 28 elections but said extraordinary circumstances were at play.

"We continue to work in collaboration with the Government throughout this evolving and challenging period for all sectors," he said.

For the first time, voting will be offered this Saturday as well as on election day next Saturday on March 28 between 9am and 5pm.

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

The ECQ has encouraged electors more vulnerable to COVID-19, including those aged 60 and over, to vote early between 9am and 11am each day.

Additional staff will be available to provide support for vulnerable electors during the voting process.

Originally published as New coronavirus powers in place for council election


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