The Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) has called on the State Government to exercise ‘common sense’ about its proposed local government reforms.
LGAQ CEO Greg Hallam said the recent Federal election result had shown the dangers of having blind faith in what passes for ‘perceived wisdom’.
“That is something commentators should remember when they come across those who politically benefit from broadcasting the perception there is widespread wrongdoing in local government,” he said.
“New research released this week shows that for all the talk of local councils being “on the nose” … the public is more satisfied with the sector than it was last year.
“Colmar Brunton found 60 percent of Queenslanders are satisfied with their local council, compared with 55 percent in 2018.
“The reason? Council is ‘doing a good job’, according to many of those surveyed. And it is what most councils are achieving, day after day.”
Mr Hallam said he expressed this view at a recent public hearing of the Parliamentary Economics and Governance Committee.
The Committee is investigating State Government proposals to introduce major changes to the way councils conduct business and the way Councillors are elected.
“I reiterated that the LGAQ supports reform if it leads to greater accountability and transparency but will always oppose changes that are made to further self-interest,” he said.
“The more the Government insists its push to introduce compulsory preferential voting to local government elections is all about transparency, the more it sounds as if it is acting in its own interests rather than those of the community.”
Mr Hallam said his view was supported by mayors who appeared before the committee and the Queensland Law Society, which was concerned parts of the legislation ‘are inconsistent with fundamental legislative principles and the rule of law.’
“When operational, some of the new obligations may not be practical and indeed expose local councillors to a real risk of prosecution for unintentional administrative oversights,” the QLS said.
Mr Hallam said while the LGAQ had no real problem with reform after the Crime and Corruption Commission’s Belcarra report, there had to be a balance.
“We cannot have a situation where there are people who do not want to be in local government and do not feel like they can walk down the street with heads held high because of where this is going.”
He also noted the Office of Independent Assessor appears to be growing more wary that some may be using its existence for purely political purposes.
In a recent statement this week on the dismissal of a councillor conduct complaint, Independent Assessor Kathleen Florian revealed that the Councillor Conduct Tribunal had “recommended the CCC consider what action can be taken to prevent complainants publicising their complaints before they can be properly investigated and dealt with.”