Minister Hinchliffe: Local government elections are just around the corner
By the Hon Stirling Hinchliffe, Minister for Local Government, Minister for Racing and Minister for Multicultural Affairs
I know I’m not the only one wondering where 2019 has gone.
But while it feels as if the year has flown by, so much has happened in the past 12 months in the Local Government sector.
Since the establishment of the Office of the Independent Assessor, Councillor Conduct Tribunal and Code of Conduct in 2018, we have seen the passage of the Belcarra 2 legislation and just last month, the introduction of the Integrity Bill.
This latest proposed legislation will see management of councillor registers of interests and conflicts of interests align with the proposed legislative regime that is being developed to regulate the registers of interests and conflicts of interests of cabinet ministers. The new conflict of interest framework has been developed based on significant feedback from councillors. The new framework provides greater clarity to councillors as to what constitutes a conflict of interest and the process that then follows.
The proposed amendments should improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the councillor conflicts of interest and register of interest systems and are designed to take effect after the 2020 Local Government elections.
Of course, the elections are just around the corner, and I trust all preparations are well underway.
For those planning on putting their hand up for election, it is now a requirement to complete the mandatory So you want to be a Councillor training before nominating.
This includes all sitting councillors and mayors as well as former councillors and mayors who are looking to run.
The mandatory training was an important recommendation in the Crime and Corruption Commission’s Operation Belcarra Report and will make sure all candidates go in with their eyes wide open about what is required during the campaign and as a councillor once elected.
The training includes information such as obligations in relation to reporting donations and expenditure during the campaign as well as the requirement to have a dedicated bank account. It also details responsibilities once elected, such as understanding conflicts of interest, the Code of Conduct and requirements involved with a councillor’s register of interests.
Queenslanders deserve representation of the highest calibre, and mandatory training will mean they have elected officials who have a better understanding of their responsibilities and obligations when serving their communities.
The training is available on the department’s website and from the feedback I’ve received, it is easy to understand and complete.
Department officials have also been travelling the state delivering face-to-face training, aimed at those who may have difficulty accessing online.
And while preparing for the elections, it is also vital for councils to ensure they are prepared for the caretaker period prior to the polls.
Under the Local Government Act, no major policy decisions can be made during this period.
Also under the Act, a local government or a controlled entity of a local government must not publish or distribute election material during caretaker.
I strongly urge all councils to plan accordingly, as caretaker will be upon us early in the new year.
Finally, I would like to thank everyone who greeted me so warmly at the annual conference in Cairns.
It was no easy feat to get there on a Parliamentary sitting day, but I felt it was vitally important to address the delegates in person.
We are most effective for the people we represent when we work together in their interests.
On that note, I look forward to a prosperous 2020, and the opportunity to continue to work closely with all councils for the benefit of our communities.
Local Government Association of Queensland
LG House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006
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