First welcome from the Minister
By Stirling Hinchliffe MP - Minister for Local Government
The Palaszczuk Government was elected on a clear platform of transparency and accountability.
In seeking a second term, we committed to legislate to establish the Office of the Independent Assessor (to deal with Councillor complaints), enact new conflict of interest provisions, and implement recommendations of the Crime and Corruption Commission’s Operation Belcarra.
The Palaszczuk Government will move quickly to fulfil those commitments, which are aimed at strengthening the governance arrangements around Local Government, to place it beyond reproach.
As Queensland’s new Minister for Local Government, I am determined to see the good name of Local Government restored, protected and enhanced.
In my view, it is unfair that the reputation of so many is tainted by the actions of so very few.
I will carry on the work done by my predecessor former Minister for Local Government Mark Furner.
I am confident that with your continued support, his plans to legislate for a rigorous and independent complaints system will come to fruition, when the lapsed legislation is once again placed before the Parliament early this year.
It is widely-known that Council CEO’s are too often bogged down with complaints against Councillors; many of them vexatious. It is a task that is difficult and one that takes CEO’s away from a myriad of other important responsibilities.
The establishment of the Office of the Independent Assessor will, in essence, provide a new ‘front door’ for complainants. The Independent Assessor will be given powers to dismiss vexatious complaints and impose strong penalties if a complainant persists.
In my first weeks in the role, Mayors and Councillors right across Queensland have already been incredibly generous in sharing their experiences and ideas; as have the Executive and staff of the LGAQ.
In building on the reform agenda of my predecessor, I want those discussions to be ongoing, as we look at other measures that may be appropriate, whilst working to ensure our system of Local Government is fair and beyond reproach.
I am extremely keen to visit a diverse range of Councils over coming months, and I will be asking Mayors and Councillors what they believe should be the State Government’s highest priorities for Local Government.
As Minister for Local Government, I am privileged to have been given carriage of the hugely-popular Works for Queensland (W4Q) program.
The second $200 million round of grants is being rolled out now. By way of an election commitment, the Palaszczuk Government has committed to a third $200 million funding round for 2020-21.
I’m told repeatedly that the value of this jobs-generating powerhouse for Councils is its flexibility, and the capacity of the W4Q to see community-enhancing projects completed, when they otherwise would have remained undone.
For the Palaszczuk Government, while the clear aim of W4Q is the creation of jobs, stronger local economies and improved community amenity are also very welcome outcomes.
We have already streamlined funding programs to speed up approvals and get the money out the door sooner, so the benefits in your communities can be realised faster.
That work will continue, as we strive to improve systems even further, and I am looking forward to a system that is simple and easy to use for all.
Overseeing the expenditure of $120 million dollars over four years to deliver critical water, wastewater, and solid waste infrastructure to Queensland’s Indigenous councils through the Indigenous Councils Critical Infrastructure Program, will be a special highlight for me.
Creating jobs, cutting red tape, dramatically improving transparency and accountability, and building sustainability will sit at the very core of my endeavours as Minister for Local Government over the coming term.
To do this work well, I intend to work in tandem with the LGAQ, and its membership. I am seeking a strong and genuine partnership; one where my door is as open to you, as yours is to me.
Having had a previous opportunity to work with the LGAQ – while Planning Minister in a former Government – I know that outcomes are always better if our two levels of Government work together in the best interests of the communities we jointly serve.
While I know that we will not always agree, I am relishing the opportunity for us to work together to ensure a system of Local Government that is beyond reproach; one that is robust, accountable and – overall – respected.
This story is from the Feb-March edition of the Council Leader. Keep an eye out for it here or contact us if you would like to receive a hard copy.
Local Government Association of Queensland
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