Dr Fidge’s ap­peal un­likely to go to court

Wangaratta Chronicle - - News - BY STEVE KELLY skelly@ne­me­dia.com.au

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.

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