Voice of Real Australia: Election? What election?

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NSW council elections have twice been cancelled due to the pandemic, but are now set for December 4. Picture: File image

NSW council elections have twice been cancelled due to the pandemic, but are now set for December 4. Picture: File image

As a young reporter I spent hours sitting through town council meetings that went on late into the night.

During those long hours, I formed the conclusion that some people just liked the sound of their own voice.

These meetings often included a break for dinner, where councillors who had been roundly abusing each other just minutes before were suddenly chatting merrily around the table like a happy dysfunctional family.

Back then, as now, the issues before council ranged from the basics of "roads, rates and rubbish", to approvals for major developments that would have a huge impact on the lives of residents.

The first municipal councils in NSW were tiny, representing perhaps 100 or so households or farms. They grew in size along with their communities, culminating in the bitter amalgamations of 2016 and the creation of the so-called super councils.

Newspapers were there from the beginning too - and early reports of meetings show that factions and divisions, the lack of civility and the sometimes low standard of debate haven't improved much either.

It's common lore that in many towns the weekly council meeting was scheduled for the night the local newspaper went to press, to keep unpopular decisions off the front page.

NSW residents are this week noticing posters going up around towns bearing the smiling faces of local council candidates. Many would be thinking, election: what election?

After the events of the last 18 months or so, the people behind those faces on the posters are going to have to fight pretty hard to get our attention.

We've endured the stop-start of lockdown and the ever changing rules, and now suddenly tourists are back in our streets and there are Christmas decorations in the newly opened shops.

Those of us who aren't focussed solely on survival are feeling fatigued and bamboozled. These council elections have twice been cancelled due to the pandemic, but are now set for December 4.

This election will look very different. There is a wider window and more relaxed rules around postal and pre-poll votes, to avoid turning voting day into a super spreading event.

At the polls, the candidates and their helpers waiting to pounce on us are only allowed to hand out 'how to vote' material 100 metres away from the polling place.

This will be a relief for us perhaps, but will make it even harder for candidates to tell us what exactly it is they stand for.

To muddy the waters further, we also have several NSW State by-elections looming, and the Federal election, tipped for early next year, is already in full campaign mode.

Decisions made by local councils dictate our basic amenities, our cost of living and the quality of services we rely on every day.

Complaining about your local council is a bit of a sport in the cities, towns and villages of regional NSW, but love them or hate them, this grass roots tier of government is always going to be the closest to home.

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