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MPs Approve New Council Laws

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Local Government Minister
Stirling Hinchliffe

May 17, 2018

State Parliament has passed a series of laws aimed at improving accountability and transparency in Local Government.

Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the reforms, passed on Thursday, would make Mayors, Councillors and Councils more accountable to their communities.

But the LNP accused the Labor Party of “ignoring sensible safeguards” and “railroading” the legislative changes through Parliament.

Mr Hinchliffe said good government has been lacking at some of Queensland’s biggest councils.

“There are currently a number of mayors, councillors and council officers in Queensland facing dozens of criminal charges between them,” he said.

At least five elected representatives are expected to be immediately affected, including at Ipswich and Logan councils.

“The Crime and Corruption Commission has warned there are more charges on the way,” Mr Hinchliffe said.

“Our reforms are not designed to catch those who make genuine mistakes, but to deal with the tiny minority not living up to community expectations.”

Legislative amendments which have been passed include:

  • An automatic suspension for any Councillor charged with one of a series of offences;
  • An expansion of the powers of the Local Government Minister to dismiss or suspend a Council or a Mayor / Councillor in the public interest;
  • An obligation on councillors to report another councillor’s conflict of interest or material personal interest, if they believe or suspect on reasonable grounds, there is an undeclared interest;
  • Improved procedures for the handling of complaints against councillors to make the process more transparent and independent, via a Councillor Conduct Tribunal which will hear and determine alleged misconduct;
  • The introduction of an Independent Assessor to assess complaints against Councillors, taking this role out of the hands of council CEOs; and
  • A ban on political donations from property developers; the LNP unsuccessfully tried to also ban political donations by unions.

Mr Hinchliffe said the reforms were in response to the CCC’s “Operation Belcarra” which found widespread non-compliance with legislative obligations relating to local government elections and political donations.

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Shadow Local Government Minister Ann Leahy said the LNP supported tough laws but claimed checks and balances were missing in the new legislation.

“Labor actually voted against a two-year review clause that they announced,” she said.

“The ability for a Minister to sack a duly elected official shouldn’t be unfettered.

“Annastacia Palaszczuk has recklessly rejected the sensible safeguards proposed by the LNP.

“Labor has arrogantly gagged debate on this bill, including myself in mid-sentence, and these unprecedented amendments haven’t been subject to the normal committee process.”

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