Party politics in local govt?

CANDIDATES' claims "there's no party politics in local government" may not be the case, an expert says.

As polling day draws closer there are always accusations of big party influence in individual campaigns.

They're often denied. But that's not information voters are always privy to.

This week The Observer asked all Gladstone Regional Council candidates to reveal who was funding their campaign ahead of the election.

Most were happy to offer the information for the story in Thursday's Observer, even when that meant revealing a union fund had paid for signage.

Only one candidate didn't answer our questions and the rest claimed to be completely self-funded with the exception of two, who freely admitted a union fund had paid for their corflutes.

And later this year we will be able to check that information, when all candidates submit their declarations on donations to the Electoral Commission, as is required by law.

But that won't help voters make a decision at next Saturday's local government election.

University of Queensland Professor Graeme Orr
University of Queensland Professor Graeme Orr

Some candidates have known ties to major parties and unions, but they've all claimed to be running as "independent", separate from their political ties.

But University of Queensland political donations and law expert Professor Graeme Orr says that may not be the case.

"You can't have any system of elections where everyone is completely separate from major political parties," Professor Orr said.

"It's natural. If you are politically minded you will have links to a party.  The difficult question is to what degree will this person truly be independent? Voters might be angry if they think they are voting for an independent and not one bound to the Labor Government, for example," Professor Orr said.

Professor Orr, who has criticised Queensland's campaign disclosure laws because they don't offer voters any insights before the fact, said any candidates aligned with --- or receiving donations from --- parties, unions or factions should let voters know before the election.   

Follow this reporter on twitter @helenspelitis

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