Councils welcome complaint reforms

Published: 13th September 2023

The peak body for Queensland councils has welcomed legislative reforms to overhaul the councillor complaints system introduced into Parliament today.

Local Government Association of Queensland chief executive officer Alison Smith thanked the State Government and Deputy Premier and Minister for Local Government Steven Miles for listening to the sector’s concerns and for introducing the changes before the end of the current council term.

“For too long, the council complaints process established under the Office of the Independent Assessor has not been functioning as it should,” Ms Smith said.

"The current system has been more focused on generating complaints, rather than regulating conduct. 

“A robust, independent and efficient councillor conduct regime is critical to the functioning of the local government sector but for this regime to work, it must strengthen the ability of councils to represent their local communities, not hamper the ability of mayors and councillors to do the job their communities elected them to do.

“We thank the State Government for listening to the concerns of the local government sector, agreeing to establish a Parliamentary Inquiry into the concerns raised last year, accepting all 40 recommendations from the inquiry, and now progressing these changes with reforms introduced to Parliament today.

“The LGAQ and its members have been calling for these reforms to be progressed before the end of the local government four-year term given the risk that good people would not run in the March 2024 council elections unless they knew improvements to the councillor complaints system would be made.

"As we have said all the way through this process, mayors and councillors should be able to speak out on issues of importance to their local communities without the fear of being reprimanded, penalised or having their reputations irreparably damaged.

“They should also be able to moderate their social media sites to protect themselves from racial abuse, and help the local pastor access a spare set of keys to conduct a Sunday church service without incurring lengthy investigations and potential penalties for simply doing their job.”

Reforms include:

  • introduces a new statutory preliminary assessment process, including a time limitation for the receipt of complaints, notices and information about councillor conduct. 
  • introduces an administrative process to declare a person a vexatious complainant
  • removes requirements for certain details to be published in a local government’s councillor conduct register
  • removes the provision of ‘training’ from the functions of the OIA
  • introduces a preliminary assessment process that the IA must undertake to determine how best to deal with a complaint, notice or information about councillor conduct, including a time limitation for accepting the complaint, notice or information
  • updates natural justice requirements in relation to suspected conduct breaches
  • redefines a breach of a local government’s acceptable requests guidelines as a ‘conduct breach’ and makes other changes to the conduct definitions
  • recognises the provision of official departmental advice to councillors.

For more information, please contact:
Dan Knowles, Media Advisor