Quick read: new legislation
This week, Queensland Parliament passed two pieces of legislation with dismissal and suspension powers that go beyond what the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) recommended in the Operation Belcarra report.
Under the changes, councillors charged with a serious integrity offence will be automatically suspended and councils or councillors can be dismissed or suspended if it is in the public interest.
The LGAQ says suspending councillors is tough medicine and it is fundamentally important that the presumption of innocence will be respected and that suspended councillors who are yet to have their matters heard in court will be paid for that period.
The LGAQ has welcomed the fact that these provisions will be reviewed. The Queensland Minister for Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs, Stirling Hinchliffe, said on Tuesday,
“I give my commitment to review today’s urgent amendments that give me the power to dismiss or suspend councillors or councils, in consultation with the Local Government Association of Queensland. The amendment to enable automatic stand-aside provisions will also be reviewed, and this review will take place within two years."
With regards to other provisions in the Belcarra Bill, the LGAQ has previously expressed its opposition to the re-introduction of two conflict of interest provisions removed from the Local Government Act in 2011 because they were proven not to work.
The LGAQ welcomes the Councillor Complaints Bill and the simplified and streamlined councillor complaints system it will deliver. The LGAQ also welcomes the Minister’s statement in parliament that the Department will prepare a range of materials, training courses, best practice guidelines, fact sheets and guidance notes to assist councils to prepare for the new Councillor complaints system and requirements.
As part of the system’s overhaul, a new $14.13 million Office of the Independent Assessor will be established to investigate and deal with allegations against councillors, meaning council CEOs will no longer be in the position of undertaking preliminary assessments of complaints.
Local Government Association of Queensland
LG House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006
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