Dr Fidge’s appeal unlikely to go to court
CANDIDATE at the 2016 Wangaratta council election Dr Julian Fidge has lost his appeal claiming the ‘election countback procedure’ was invalid, heard by the Supreme Court of Victoria.
Following the passing of Councillor Ruth Amery in October 2017 the Victorian Electoral Commission carried out a countback to determine who would fill the vacancy.
Cr Ashlee Fitzpatrick was elected through a process of counting and redistributing the ballot papers that contributed to Ms Amery’s election.
In a recent discussion before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) it was noted that Dr Fidge was “aggrieved that a candidate who originally received fewer votes than he, in both first preferences and again after preferences were counted, was able to be elected following an extraordinary vacancy in accordance with the countback procedure”.
Dr Fidge challenged the validity and legality of certain sections of the Local Government Act and he maintained that the countback procedure “limits or restricts the human right to vote and/or be elected”.
However, it was acknowledged that VCAT was not the appropriate entity to challenge the Act.
At the VCAT hearing Dr Fidge asked deputy president Heather Lambrick to refer the matter to the Trial Division of the Supreme Court.
However, Ms Lambrick shared the view of the Attorney General Martin Pakula who submitted that Dr Fidge’s contentions were “bound to fail” should the matter be heard by the Supreme Court.
She noted that Dr Fidge was unable in his submissions to articulate any principle of law upon which he would argue his case before the court.
“I will not for the reasons already given refer any of the matters to the court,” Ms Lambrick said in her conclusion.
However, Ms Lambrick adjourned the matter just in case there were further arguments to be put forward by Dr Fidge.
“Nevertheless, in an abundance of caution I will adjourn the proceeding to an administrative mention on November 18, 2018,” she said.
Ms Lambrick noted that the electoral countback procedure is currently under review.