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Petition to end election sign madness

By Dan Miller - 15 May 2017 17

Election signs

Anyone that has been in and around Canberra during the last few ACT legislative assembly elections will recall seeing the streets littered with signs of candidates trying to out-do each other.

Think back and remember how ridiculous it got. The current use of signs in ACT elections has reached peak-silliness!

Around the time of the most recent election, a few friends and I ran some informal polls to see what people thought about the signs. The majority of responses boiled down to a few simple phrases…

  • annoying
  • don’t like them
  • wish someone would do something about them

Not one to let an opportunity to help out my local community go unanswered…

On behalf of all ACT residents, maybe yourself, who saw the election signs and found themselves thinking “excessive”, “stupid”, “wasteful”, “messy”, “dangerous”, “anti-social”, “eyesore”, “ineffective”, “disparity”, “inequality”, “abuse-of-position”, “entitlement-mentality”…  a petition has been started to urge the ACT Legislative Assembly to make a change.

Interestingly, when we were researching this idea, we discovered that there is a section in the applicable legislation, known as the Code of Practice for Movable Signs, that actually deals with the number of signs people can use in the ACT.

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that there are restrictions on most people in the community. Businesses, real estate agents, and community groups have strict limits on the number of signs they are allowed to use.

What might be surprising however is that the politicians have given themselves a special section in the code of practice that lifts all restrictions for themselves. That’s right, legislative assembly candidates wishing to spruik themselves have absolutely no restrictions on the number of signs they can put up, for six weeks prior to the election.

In fairness, it is important for candidates to be able to let the community know that they are up for election. Having our future representatives let us know about themselves and what they stand for is critical to a well-functioning democratic society. Even so, the following arguments are worth considering:

  • it should be a level playing field for all candidates;
  • the rest of the community shouldn’t end up dealing with the collateral damage of the ‘core-flute-sign arms race’ that ramps up every election cycle;
  • politicians should treat themselves equally to the rest of the community when it comes to restrictions on the numbers of signs that can be used in the ACT.

The full URL for anyone wishing to view and possibly sign the petition is https://www.change.org/p/reduce-the-number-of-act-election-signs.

What’s Your opinion?


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17 Responses to
Petition to end election sign madness
1
Tara Cheyne MLA 11:33 am
15 May 17
#

This is being looked at as part of a committee inquiry into the 2016 Election and the Electoral Act.
The discussion paper is here -> http://www.parliament.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/1052782/2016-Election-and-Electoral-Act-Discussion-Paper-rev-2017-04-24.pdf
The terms of reference is here -> http://www.parliament.act.gov.au/in-committees/select_committees/2016-ACT-Election-and-Electoral-Act/inquiry-into-the-operation-of-the-2016-act-election-and-the-electoral-act
Submissions to the inquiry are due by 30 June.

2
Damien Haas 11:54 am
15 May 17
#

One of the more ludicrous suggestions I’ve seen for some time.

Engagement in public policy and community consultation is already difficult to achieve. Outside an election period few people could name their elected representatives, or even the name of their electorate. With significant spending restrictions applied to political campaigns (for good reason) these signs are a balanced way to share a message and provide visibility for candidates, their policies and the parties they represent.

There are already guidelines in place for these signs. Further restrictions aren’t necessary.

3
gearoid 1:25 pm
15 May 17
#

What’s ludicrous is the amount of resources going into this clutter. Let’s forget the environmental damage from the ink, paper, wood and petrol, and focus on time lost by humans who could conceivably be doing something more useful with their time. Perhaps even making a contribution to the community they live in. Instead, they busy themselves graffiting our environment. I’m very much in favour of candidates getting their message out so I can differentiate when I come to vote. Can’t we do this via an app at the polling booth or some such – surely we have the technology now. Thanks Tara for mentioning the inquiry – I really hope it ends or curtails this nonsense. Needless to say, I’ve signed that petition Dan.

4
bj_ACT 3:54 pm
15 May 17
#

Damien Haas said :

One of the more ludicrous suggestions I’ve seen for some time.

Engagement in public policy and community consultation is already difficult to achieve. Outside an election period few people could name their elected representatives, or even the name of their electorate. With significant spending restrictions applied to political campaigns (for good reason) these signs are a balanced way to share a message and provide visibility for candidates, their policies and the parties they represent.

There are already guidelines in place for these signs. Further restrictions aren’t necessary.

A local politician actually doing something to address constituent concerns and properly representing the actual suburbs within his/her electorate (instead of blindly following their own party) will help me get to know my local politicians and help me choose who to vote for.

Being able to put your picture portrait near a main road every four years as a way to get your name into the minds of your constituents, suggests to me that ACT politicians and local lobbyists might have their priorities the wrong way round.

5
Damien Haas 8:22 pm
15 May 17
#

bj_ACT said :

A local politician actually doing something to address constituent concerns and properly representing the actual suburbs within his/her electorate (instead of blindly following their own party) will help me get to know my local politicians and help me choose who to vote for.

Being able to put your picture portrait near a main road every four years as a way to get your name into the minds of your constituents, suggests to me that ACT politicians and local lobbyists might have their priorities the wrong way round.

A sign on a road, or in a persons front yard, is the great equaliser. An independent that gets zero coverage in the media has equal eyeball access on Belconnen Way.

Limiting the ways that citizens can engage with people that seek to represent them is a retrograde idea.

6
rommeldog56 8:47 pm
15 May 17
#

Damien Haas said :

One of the more ludicrous suggestions I’ve seen for some time.

Engagement in public policy and community consultation is already difficult to achieve. Outside an election period few people could name their elected representatives, or even the name of their electorate. With significant spending restrictions applied to political campaigns (for good reason) these signs are a balanced way to share a message and provide visibility for candidates, their policies and the parties they represent.

There are already guidelines in place for these signs. Further restrictions aren’t necessary.

One of the more ludicrous suggestions I’ve seen for some time was “hey – lets build a tram”. Even more ludicrous is that fact that Canberra voters & ratepayers actually voted (in part) for it.

The signs are a waste of time, resources and $. Plus, they are distracting to motorists & dangerous. There are too many MLAs now competing for roadside space to stick their signs on. Use mailbox drops and social media instead. Or perhaps get the Unions to back their campaign………

7
Dan Miller 9:37 am
16 May 17
#

Thanks for the support everyone.

We would really love to get the word out to as many people as possible about this. The more people that know about it the greater the chance we can do something about it.

If you had a moment it would mean a lot if you could please share a link to this article and/or the petition to your friends and other favourite social media sites.

Please pass it on.

8
RobVH 11:53 am
16 May 17
#

Great idea Dan, I agree that the electoral signs should have the same restrictions as other movable signs, and not be in a class of their own. I hate driving in Canberra around ACT election time. This unnecessary roadside mess is blot on the landscape and a dangerous distraction for drivers. There are currently NO restrictions on the number of signs, only where they cannot be placed. If politicians need to be visible, I’m sure there are much better ways to achieve this. You have my full support.

9
petunia petal 8:56 pm
16 May 17
#

Im more disgusted by the major parties accepting an increase in taxpayer funding from $2 to $8 per vote from the last election. How on earth is this justified!!!??? Money from rate payers to fund more stupid corflutes which aren’t cheap. These signs are lazy, ugly, environmentally damaging and treat the voters with contempt.

10
Dan Miller 9:03 am
18 May 17
#

Tara Cheyne MLA said :

This is being looked at as part of a committee inquiry into the 2016 Election and the Electoral Act.

Thanks for the links Tara 🙂

I have just sent in a submission to the Inquiry for consideration. Looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

Sincerely,
Dan

11
Stephen C 2:21 am
20 May 17
#

I will not be signing this petition.

I encourage anyone who believes in free speech and in not disadvantaging independents and small parties to not sign this petition.

The root cause of the problem of too many corflutes is unintended consequences of the crazy paving that is our existing electoral system. Banning corflutes is just putting more bandaids on a system that is stacked against smaller parties.

The reasons include:
(a) Robson rotation on ballot papers – so members within parties jostle amongst themselves for notice;
(b) the ban on canvassing within 100 metres of a polling place – which makes it hard for independents and small parties to get their platforms and candidates noticed. One in every ten voters surveyed by the ACT electoral commission at the 2016 poll said that they found the lack of how to vote cards to be a problem. One in ten voters is not a small number when you consider that marginal candidates are elected on just a few votes;
(c) the $8 of taxpayers money for every first preference vote that goes to parties and candidates reaching 4% of the vote encourages candidates to jockey for the money – this advantages the larger parties. Around about $1.7 million went mostly to the major parties. This is the most generous system in Australia – it should go back to $2 and there should be no 4% threshold, so minor party candidates stand a chance.

Clean up this mess before striking out one of the few remaining avenues for free speech. A bit of clutter at election time every four years is not too much to ask when we are talking about choosing your representatives.

12
NaomiG 7:01 am
20 May 17
#

This is just another way the major parties can get ahead.
Why not ban major parties from having coreflutes. They’re the ones who are actually spending tax payer money on them, clogging up the green areas and playing dirty by getting members to steal/damage the competitions coreflutes – making a mess and yet again wasting more money.
Why not let this be a way for minor parties and independents to be seen with their limited personal resources and ability to campaign without tax payer money?
Did you know each ACT vote over 4% gives a party about $8 in comparison to the other states only get about $2…because aparently it’s 4x harder to campaign in the ACT.

13
Matt Donnelly 2:05 pm
20 May 17
#

While I agree with Dan Miller’s points regarding the ugliness of roadside election signs, and the mess they create, I believe they are a necessary evil in the ACT. As a former ACT candidate in federal and local elections, I do not agree that restricting signs to 20 per party/independent will help to even the playing field during elections.

Compared to television/radio advertising, and mailouts, corflutes provide minor parties/independents with a relatively cost-effective means of promoting a candidate or policy. Printing and erecting signs requires time and effort and volunteers, not tonnes of cash, and that’s where minor parties like the Liberal Democrats have a fighting chance against the majors.

It would be great if every Canberra voter took the time to visit every party/independent’s website to familiarise themselves with candidates and policies, but that is simply not the case. Thus, signs are required in order to attract the attention of apathetic voters, and remind them that it’s not just a three party race.

14
wildturkeycanoe 11:01 pm
22 May 17
#

What can a sign with just enough space to put a candidate name and party really convey in the few seconds a motorist driving past sees? The internet is where we learn what candidates have to offer, not a six word colourful sign.
Be rid of the things and give the money to charity, that’d buy my vote.

15
Garfield 10:52 am
23 May 17
#

wildturkeycanoe said :

What can a sign with just enough space to put a candidate name and party really convey in the few seconds a motorist driving past sees? The internet is where we learn what candidates have to offer, not a six word colourful sign.
Be rid of the things and give the money to charity, that’d buy my vote.

Someone driving past might see the sign and later go and research the candidate online. Without the sign the majority of voters may not know that a candidate exists. There are only so many people a candidate can talk to individually and its a good bet that a lot of the information stuffed into letter boxes gets binned before anyone reads it. Banning corflutes would further entrench the established parties, and I for one want minor parties and independents to have a chance so as to keep maximum pressure on the majors to produce good policy and governance.

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