This week was another very good week for local government in Queensland as the LGAQ’s advocacy on behalf of its members continues to pay dividends for councils the length and breadth of the state. On Tuesday, the Palaszczuk Government announced the next phase of its Unite and Recover strategy including a further $50 million in COVID-19 stimulus for SEQ councils.
It follows the $200 million in COVID-19 Works for Queensland funding allocated to councils last month off the back of the LGAQ’s Battleplan for Queensland Local Communities, with $150 million of that funding allocated to regional councils. And of course, there was the $101 million in Federal funding for community infrastructure allocated last month as well. It has never been more important to ensure no community is left behind as councils navigate their communities through COVID-19.
The other good news was the passage of the so-called “Trad Bill” through State Parliament this week. As you know, the LGAQ has been pushing hard to ensure the element of dishonest intent remained in the new conflict of interest offences contained within the Bill to ensure they strike the right balance between punishing wrongdoing and providing for natural justice. On Thursday, the Parliament voted to pass the laws as drafted, with intent included, ensuring it was not moving to criminalise innocent mistakes.
That vote also – hopefully – brought to an end a decade of swings and roundabouts, confusion, and fear over conflicts of interest for Mayors and Councillors. We should now have the clarity and procedural fairness needed to lift what has been a heavy burden from the shoulders of the state’s 578 elected members. If you purposefully and knowingly do the wrong thing regarding the declaration of interests then you face jail time, but make an honest mistake and the result will be reprimand and censure, not the loss of your freedom.
The LGAQ thanks the Premier, Attorney- General, and Minister for Local Government for securing these vitally important legislative amendments. Importantly the LGAQ can now complete the Conflict of Interest App it is developing in partnership with the Office of Independent Assessor and proceed with the delivery of face to face EMU programs focussed on the new COI laws, which will come into force around the time of the LGAQ Annual Conference in October.
The LGAQ plans to complete most of its EMU sessions prior to Annual Conference and will be in contact with councils soon to settle on timings. These sessions will be delivered at no cost to councils as they are a benefit of your membership.
Finally, thanks to everyone who took part in our first event for the year – and first-ever virtual event – the Civic Leader’s Summit. This summit is designed to provide members with a chance to learn from each other and to hear from our watchdogs and the Minister and it was a wonderful success.