Mayoral candidates Clare Stewart and Tony Wellington agree with the election green light.
Mayoral candidates Clare Stewart and Tony Wellington agree with the election green light.

Mayoral candidates respond to election ‘green light’

LOCAL Government Elections are set to go ahead this weekend despite the harsh restrictions in place as Australia works to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The Electoral Commission of Queensland say they have carefully considered the impact of COVID-19 on this Saturday's local government elections.

Based on current advice available, the ECQ has decided to proceed with the elections, on the basis that the elections facilitate an essential service by providing for continuity of democratic representation for Queenslanders.

Noosa Mayoral candidates Tony Wellington and Clare Stewart have weighed in on the decisions, agreeing the importance of politics as we face unprecedented social restrictions.

Mayor Tony Wellington said he stood by the EQC's decision.

"The current advice is that the election can proceed," Cr Wellington said.

"The decision can only be made by the Electoral Commission of Queensland in conjunction with the State Government.

"At present they are receiving advice from Queensland's Chief Health Officer."

Ms Stewart said in these times leadership counted more than ever.

"At this stage I, like many others, am taking on board the advice of the ECQ who indicate polling remains a low-risk activity," Ms Stewart said.

"I certainly appreciate politics might be the furthest thing from people's mind, but clarity regarding leadership will be critical in the weeks to come."

"It is my understanding many residents of Noosa have also taken the opportunity to pre-poll and many more will likely do so with extended polling hours in the coming days."

As of Wednesday night, more than 850,000 Queensland electors had already voted with a further 570,000 receiving postal ballots. More than 26,000 people have registered for a telephone vote.

Queensland Health have made it clear it was "perfectly safe" to vote.

Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said people who were well, not self-isolating and not in quarantine should vote.

"At the moment, you can get go shopping, duck into the chemist, drop the kids off at school, get a haircut and pick up a takeaway meal as long as you take precautions," the Minister said.

"And you can vote.

"If you can, take advantage of the opportunity to vote early - it will mean fewer people and shorter queues on Saturday.

"I'd also like to thank all those employers who have encouraged their staff to go and vote early - it will make an enormous difference."

Speaking at a media conference, Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said voters who were healthy could vote early or on election day, 28 March, and maintain the 1.5m distance between individuals.

"Everyone … absolutely go and vote, vote early this week … vote on Saturday … it's perfectly safe," she said.

"Normally our voting process is a very social event - we have sausage sizzles, we have fetes, we have all sorts of things.

"They're not happening this time, so people just go straight in and vote and straight out - and the risk of doing that is absolutely minimal.

"Of course I would ask that anyone who is sick to not attend, that's just common sense, and anyone who's in quarantine or isolation or is in one of those groups that we're concerned about, for them not to attend, and they should contact the electoral commission and manage that process."

Early voting continues on Thursday from 9am to 9pm, Friday from 9am to 6pm and Election Day from 8am to 6pm.

The ECQ confirmed measures would be put in place at polling places to limit the number of people inside the building and maintain good standards of hygiene.

Polling officials will be monitoring the number of people in attendance at polling booths to ensure there is compliance with social distancing guidelines implemented by the National Cabinet.

The ECQ will be employing additional staff to assist with managing queues and help people cast their vote in the most efficient manner.

If voters are unwell or in self-isolation or quarantine, telephone voting is available. Call 1300 912 782.

Here's what personal hygiene measures will be in place:

- Where available, hand sanitiser will be provided for voters and polling officials at early voting centres and polling booths.

- Additional cleaning of polling booth areas will be undertaken, to ensure that hard surfaces are regularly disinfected.

- All people in polling booths should follow social distancing guidelines, including maintaining distances of 1.5 metres where possible and avoiding handshakes.

- The ECQ has written to candidates, advising that no how-to-vote cards or other election material can be distributed at a polling booth.

- Voters are encouraged to bring their own pen or pencil with them to vote, although pencils will be available to voters.


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