Weekly Speak CEO Column
There is sense in listening
Here’s the story of the 123rd LGAQ annual conference in Cairns by the numbers: 700 delegates, observers and exhibitors, 85 motions carried (16 unanimously), three motions withdrawn, one minister with some good news, 97 indigenous councillors in attendance and about $3 million pumped into the local economy.
The news that the Palaszczuk Government would drop its plans to force compulsory preferential voting in the 28 March 2020 local government elections was delivered by Minister Stirling Hinchliffe in person after he flew to Cairns to address the conference, only to dash back to Brisbane to kick off the second reading debate of the Local Government Electoral (Implementing Stage 2 of Belcarra) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill.
Also gone from the legislation is the provisions deeming that candidates and councillors should have knowledge of the original source of a gift or loan, a proposal that drew heavy criticism from no less a body than the Queensland Law Society for its reversal of the onus of proof.
As the Minister told Parliament: “Reversing the onus of proof imposes a higher obligation on councillors and participants in local government elections than applies to members of the state parliament and participants in state elections”.
Our President Mark Jamieson acknowledged the decision not to go ahead with compulsory preferential voting by saying it was a sign of a listening Government.
What the Government did finally listen to was the 98 percent opposition to compulsory preferential voting that member councils expressed at the LGAQ special general meeting to discuss these changes and Belcarra related reforms. It was a great example of our sphere of government standing up for what is right.
It was not just the LGAQ warning about this, but the entire sector.
But the Minister’s announcement was just one highlight of a cracking annual conference. The LGAQ flagged its latest offering, Our Town, which would use data analytics to gain insights into community sentiment.
Our Town would use the expertise of LG Sherlock, artificial intelligence and natural language processing to identify opportunities to gain some deeper insights into what makes local communities tick – with the objective of identifying how councils could better engage, communicate and service residents as well as keep them safe.
And last but by no means least, conference heard that former District Court judge John Robertson has accepted a role as head of an independent unit to assess and decide on the claims and counterclaims that will be made in the heat of the campaigns associated with the 28 March council elections.
His Honour will begin work on 1 December and to preserve his independence will be attached to the offices of legal firm King and Co.
What a week!
Local Government Association of Queensland
LG House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006
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