October 17, 2014

Horse 1777 - Wanna Be Lord Mayor Of Sydney? Just Buy The Council

Did anyone else notice this recently? I did... and I'm scared.

The objects of this Bill are:
(d) to provide that if a corporation is the owner, ratepaying lessee or occupier of rateable land
in the City of Sydney, the corporation may nominate 2 natural persons to be enrolled as
electors instead of the corporation.
- City of Sydney Amendment (Elections) Bill 2014

The City of Sydney Amendment (Elections) Bill 2014 was introduced by Robert Borsak of the Fishers and Shooters Party into the Legislative Council (upper house) where it passed easily. All it needs now is approval from the lower house and that's it - the doors are open. If you wanted to, you could BUY democracy. I don't mean through bribery either. I mean just buy the necessary requirements so that you'd have a majority of votes in your own right; you can't bribe yourself, can you?

Step 1- Buy 100,000 companies.
Proprietary limited companies can be hard fairly cheaply. Just out of curiosity I asked our company "manufacturer" how much 100,000 companies would cost. Including ASIC registration fees, they said that they'd be happy to do that for $25.5m.

Step 2 - Subdivide An Office.
I rang the City of Sydney Council this morning and they explained that there is no legislated minimum space for office accommodation - so far so good. If our theoretical office space was only 1cm² per company, then the space needed for 100,000 companies is only 10m². The stamp duty of transferring a piece of office space which is only 10m² in size is quite minimal.

Step 3 - Register 100,000 companies as occupiers of rateable land.
Since companies are separate persons at law, then registering them all as occupiers would then entitle you to 200,000 votes in City of Sydney Council elections, which given that there are only currently 165,000 people in the local government area, instantly entitles you to an outright majority by yourself and one other person.


If the City of Sydney Amendment (Elections) Bill 2014 passes and makes it into law, then it's entirely possible to just outright buy every single seat on the council for less than $30m. $30m is chicken feed to some of the bigger corporations which live within the local government area of the City of Sydney.
Admittedly this bill amends the City of Sydney Act 1988; so would only extend to the council elections for the City of Sydney itself but there isn't any real reason why it could be expanded to other councils, or even state or federal parliament.

Okay, this is hyperbole and probably won't happen but if you were a property owning corporation like Shopping Centres Australasia, AMP, Knight Frank, Lend-Lease etc. it would be seriously worth considering. If you wanted a 70 storey office block somewhere, why would the council object to it if you owned an outright majority of votes in council elections? You just just nominate every single councillor.

The underlying reason why this insipid piece of legislation was even brought before the house I suspect, is that secretly a group of people wanted the Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney, Clover Moore, who is an independent, gone.
I think that Robert Borsak was probably put up to it by someone else because I can not possibly see any reason why someone from the Fishers and Shooters Party would want to enact legislation like this - it's not like there are any wild deer running through the Pitt Street mall which need to be culled. Maybe there's some sort of metaphor here in that Mr Borsak just wants to take aim and pick off Clover Moore.

I personally hate the fact that non-corporeal persons would get any vote in a democracy, much less two. Owners of companies already get their say at the ballot box, so why should they deserve another? It complete destroys the notion of "One Person, One Vote" and although having a vote might be almost passée to us, a shade over a hundred years ago, people picketed and marched in the streets for the franchise.

The City of Sydney Amendment (Elections) Bill 2014 is a bill which actively seeks to disenfranchise people by diluting their voting power. If I can show fairly easily how one can simply buy all the necessary votes to take every seat on the council and take the position of the Lord Mayor; without much effort, then this stomps democracy into the ground.
Democracy - it was fun whilst it lasted.

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