Banning developer donations to candidates high on wish list
BANNING developers from making donations to local government candidates is high on the wish list of Noosa Council as the State Government looks to increase powers to stop corrupt practices.
The changes to the Local Government Act include an automatic suspension for any mayor or councillor charged with one of a series of serious integrity offences and increased power for the local government minister to dismiss or suspend councillors in the public interest.
"The latter change is necessary to put beyond doubt the capacity of the government to intervene when necessary,” Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said.
The minister said the two new provisions would be introduced as amendments to the Belcarra Bill currently before State Parliament.
Noosa also has made a submission to the Crime and Corruption Commission Queensland's Belcarra reform process, seeking the definition of developer to be expanded to include those seeking subdivisions and building redevelopments rather than just land projects. And the council said the developer definition should also take in trusts and major individuals rather than just corporations.
"We acknowledge and support that the definition should not be aimed at small 'mum and dad'-type applicants,” the submission said.
Noosa is also against a proposal to allow other councillors to decide if a councillor has a real or perceived conflict of interest that would prevent them from taking part in debate and voting, because the system could be abused in councils that have factions or voting blocs.
Mayor Tony Wellington said he and council Chief Executive Officer Brett de Chastel were part of the CCC's public hearing.
"On the whole, Noosa Council is supportive of proposed measures by the state to improve probity in local government,” the mayor said.
"It is a shame that the actions of a few people on a handful of Queensland councils have brought the entire sector into disrepute.
"There are thousands of good, community-spirited people working in local government, the vast majority of whom act with genuine integrity.”
Cr Wellington said every day they make a difference to the communities that they serve. "But if stronger provisions are required to deal with those who abuse their position, then we support that approach,” he said.
"Noosa Council has strong policies and procedures in place to ensure appropriate behaviour by both elected councillors and staff.
"Councillors, in particular, are very aware of their obligations to declare conflicts of interest should they arise. What's more, they undertake regular refresher training on this issue. I believe we run a very tight ship as far as integrity is concerned, so we certainly have nothing to fear from the proposed legislative measures.”
He said any steps that improved accountability in government were a good thing.
The latest moves come after major council integrity issues with the former Fraser mayor, the Ipswich City Council and the Logan mayor.