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Beyond Belcarra - from response to recovery

Thursday 29 March 2018

By acting CEO and advocacy general manager, Sarah Buckler. 

While cyclonic winds and heavy rainfalls were hitting local government communities in the gulf and northern parts of the state due to TC Nora and TC Iris, local governments in the southern parts were being rocked by news that the Crime and Corruption Commission were laying further charges following from Operation Belcarra and the investigations into electoral donations.

With the Parliamentary Committee hearing on the Local Government Electoral (Implementing Stage 1 of Belcarra) and Other Legislation Bill 2018 this week, we cannot hide from the fact that all eyes are on how our sector will respond and recover, beyond Belcarra.

Similarly, the intersection of severe weather events has seen the spotlight turn on our sector as our local emergency services personnel and disaster arrangements work around the clock to ensure communities, including some of our most vulnerable, are safe and best prepared to manage before, during and post impact.

For the LGAQ, these two significant and concurrent events, help to remind us of the need to continue to focus on what is important and the critical role we have in maintaining public confidence - in all that we do.

Strip away the media grabbing headlines, the hype and the hyperbole and the fact remains local government is an important institution in this state.  It manages more than $150 billion of community assets and employs more than 40,000 people who spend their days working hard to make their communities better and delivering essential public services.  People who have much to be proud of everyday, despite what might attract attention on any given day. 

Daily local government touch points are countless, whether you are a business, community member or a visitor.  From flushing toilets to recycled waste, from recreational parks to the provision of roads, local governments are tirelessly working in the background creating safe environments for communities to thrive and prosper. 

The need to maintain public trust in and respect for our sphere of government is paramount. And not just during testing times, but always.

To do this we must always continually seek to exceed the minimum standard, we must be leaders in transparency and accountability, and we must be seen to respond when we are challenged and not just when the spotlight is on us. 

That is why, this week, the LGAQ urged the parliamentary Economic and Governance Committee considering the Stage 1 response to Belcarra to go even further than the recommendations. 

This needs to work beyond Belcarra, in a practical way, every day.  In our submission we have taken stronger positions that the legislation would seek to require in relation to election campaign limits, register of interest declarations for candidates and the responsibilities placed on elected members who receive donations.

There is no question that the reputation of our sector has been challenged but as with any event, it is how we recover that will be the real test.  Understandably there are many within the local government community who are despairing at how our sector is being portrayed, hurting at the suggestion that local government is anything but driven to work for the community and deeply concerned at how we can maintain confidence in our sector.

To them I would say, as we look to the looming skies over this oncoming long weekend, wondering if the rains are coming as we plan for our Easter break, remember there is still much for which we can hold our heads high. We will weather this storm.

Please stay safe and have a restful Easter long weekend.

Local Government Association of Queensland
LG House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006