BY CHRIS EARL
INTEGRITY and community are two buzz words being cast around the Mallee electorate with conviction and commitment in this federal election campaign.
Integrity of government and of the election process, commitment to economic and population growth of rural towns and communities that are this electorate, by far the largest geographically in Victoria as it encompasses 81,962 square kilometres.
But for all that distance, land and number of communities, the Australian Electoral Commission is unable to share the commitment to regional Australia championed by fair dinkum country people.
This independent manager of Australia’s democratic elections thinks it is okay to have its Mallee office not in Mildura, Swan Hill, Maryborough, Horsham or even Wedderburn but in another electorate, Bendigo.
The AEC decision shows a complete disconnect with communities where the voters live, denies face-to-face contact with commission officials and raises many questions about how the electoral process will unfold.
Electoral commissioner Trevor Rogers owes the people of Loddon and all Mallee an explanation why the divisional returning office is not located in this electorate, the only one in country Victoria denied a closer connection to democracy.
By going more than four hours away from the electorate’s largest population centre, and far from other key centres, the AEC effectively denied the traditional “friendly meeting” of candidates at the ballot draw last Friday.
And where will postal votes be counted? Where will votes be counted to determine preference counts? Where will the election result be declared?
At the moment, it appears the AEC does not consider Mallee worthy to fully experience the democratic process.
The snub could not be more obvious.
The AEC was asked for comment last week but is still to respond.