When most people start a small business they do so keeping in mind that there will be plenty of hurdles along the way. Some they can control and some they can’t. Basically, they just get on with the job and meet those issues as they arise.
As a small business owner, one issue that concerned me was the fact that it was very difficult, if not nearly impossible for small business owners to vote in the City of Sydney Council elections. For a significant period before I was elected as an independent Councillor for the City of Sydney Council I fought for small businesses to be given the same voting rights and procedures as residential voters.
Last year, legislation in the form of the City of Sydney Amendment (Elections) Act 2014, put in place laws that make voting compulsory for both residents and non-residents. This voting system will be put in place in time for the next local government elections planned for September 2016. Admittedly the business voting plans are not perfect and I have previously voiced my concerns, but nevertheless, they have been gazetted and the obligations on all voters and the City of Sydney are now law.
Under the new law the City of Sydney must now develop a non-residential register and hand that register over to the NSW Electoral Commission so they can put together the role for the 2016 election.
There’s no doubt that the development of a non-residential register detailing non-resident owners of rateable land, occupiers and rate paying lessees will be a significant task. But, I firmly believe that the City of Sydney is staffed with talented people who will do their utmost to meet the obligations under the act.
It is disappointing then that discussion at Monday night’s council meeting appeared to focus on a long list of negatives associated with the implementation of the business voting system. Rather than predicting possible legal action that may never happen, discussing costs associated with the development of the business voting system, or commenting that the laws are politically motivated and backed by big business; there should be acknowledgment that small business owners can now have their say. This opportunity will allow them to voice their opinion in a way that can only enhance business and community success backed by democracy.
The system is now law so it has to be actioned. There is no point continuing to focus on future legal action that may never happen. Rather than detailing that the system will cost $12 million to implement, it should be highlighted that this figure only equates to $100 per business voter.
As small business owners we certainly don’t view these laws as a glass half empty; we need to acknowledge that the glass is now half full.
The City of Sydney is a big supporter of small business through its many programs and events and I believe the engagement of thousands of small business voters will only add to the vibrancy of the city in a positive way.