Reforms herald new era of local government accountability: Minister

STATE parliament has passed historic reforms which herald a new era of accountability and transparency in local government. 

ACCOUNTABILITY: Queensland local government minister Stirling Hinchliffe.

ACCOUNTABILITY: Queensland local government minister Stirling Hinchliffe.

Local government minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the reforms would make mayors, councillors and councils more accountable to their communities. 

“Queenslanders expect and deserve good Government – government that’s transparent and accountable,” he said.

“It’s on these very foundations that all good governments are built. 

“Regrettably, 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. 

“The Crime and Corruption Commission has warned there are more charges on the way. 

“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.

“Queenslanders have supported our accountability and transparency reforms, by voting in favour of stronger integrity measures at two State Elections.” 

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 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. 

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. 

“The new laws will face ongoing review, to identify more opportunities for reform while ensuring the public can have ongoing confidence in councillors upholding the highest ethical standards,” he said.