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Local candidate edges closer

08 Dec 2016

Local candidate edges closer Image

By Shane Scanlan

Southbank candidate Joe Sarraf is one step closer to being elected to the Melbourne City Council following a decision by the Municipal Electoral Tribunal (MET) on December 5.

Magistrate Michael Smith dismissed an application from the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) for a recount.  Instead, Mr Smith formally dismissed ineligible candidate Brooke Wandin and created an extraordinary vacancy.

The rules governing an extraordinary vacancy require a count-back, which awards voters who opted for Ms Wandin their second preference.

Ms Wandin’s running mate, Nic Frances Gilley is expected to be offered the 11th councillor position, but it is not known whether or not he intends to accept it.

Should he not accept, Joe Sarraf is widely tipped to be next in line.

Although a count-back was scheduled to start on December 12, Mr Smith’s decision will delay the action until early January.

The VEC asked Mr Smith for a recount, despite acknowledging that this could result in some successful candidates losing their positions.

Mr Smith told VEC barrister Liam Brown that he would not entertain this option.  He said, unlike the recount option, the count-back option was sanctioned by legislation and was the fairest available course of action.

Ms Wandin was elected to the council at the October 22 poll but was later found to be ineligible because she was not correctly enrolled.  She was not sworn in and later resigned her position.

But, legally, her resignation was not enough and Mr Smith formally dismissed her as a councillor at the December 5 MET hearing.

With only 10 councillors, the Lord Mayor is currently enjoying an effective majority on council due to his casting vote as chairman.

However, he will not have things his own way next year regardless of which candidate wins the 11th position under the count-back system.

It is understood councillor Doyle was confident of getting former deputy lord mayor Susan Riley elected should the tribunal have ordered a recount, as requested by the VEC.

Mr Smith was critical of the laws governing local government elections in Victoria.  He said a 2015 amendment presented an opportunity to insert some certainty around circumstances such as the Brooke Wandin case but had failed to so do.

“All it would have taken was the insertion of a single extra paragraph,” he said.

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