Almost 26,000 Campbelltonians have been issued fines for failing to vote in the Campbelltown by-election, held in March this year.
The NSW Electoral Commission said 25,871 fines had been sent out to people who did not register to vote.
While Campbelltown Council were forced to foot the bill for the by-election – estimated to be about $500,000 – the state government will collect the money from fines.
It means, at $55 a pop, the state government could collect more than $1.42 million dollars from Campbelltonians.
In March, Campbelltown MP Greg Warren (Labor) wrote to Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton (Liberal) asking for some of the money generated in fines to be given to the council to at least cover the cost of the by-election.
Those requests were ignored.
“Ultimately it looks like the government want to keep the money and not give it back,” he said.
“Sadly the requests have fallen on deaf ears.”
Mr Warren said he had not given up hope yet and wrote to Treasurer Dominic Perrotet yesterday calling for the council to be reimbursed.
He also called for the commission to show leniency to those who were fined given many were unaware of the by-election due to a lack of advertising – particularly on the commission’s behalf.
“The by-election came at an enormous cost to many people in our community as well as the council,” he said.
“Any cost to the council also means a cost to the local community and that money could have been better spent.”
Acting Campbelltown mayor Meg Oates (Labor) said she would welcome any money to recoup the council’s outgoings – though she wasn’t optimistic.
The by-election and the cost to Campbelltown ratepayers could have been avoided if legislation – passed by state parliament a few years ago – to enable new councillors to be appointed via a count back system, was formalised.
“The state government have to get better systems in place – whether that be a count back system or a person from the same party (fills the void),” Cr Oates said.
“If there was a better system there would have been no need for council to spend money or for people to be inconvenienced.”
The by-election was held after long-serving councillor Fred Borg (independent) died days before Christmas last year.
Cr Ben Gilholme (Labor) was elected in his place.