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    Coat of ArmsMedia Release
    Premier and Minister for the Arts
    The Honourable Annastacia Palaszczuk

    Premier's speech - Local Government Electoral (Implementing Belcarra) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2017

    Premier and Minister for the Arts
    The Honourable Annastacia Palaszczuk

    Thursday, October 12, 2017

    Premier's speech - Local Government Electoral (Implementing Belcarra) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2017

    Mr Speaker, I am pleased to introduce the Local Government Electoral (Implementing Belcarra) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2017.

    This Bill will amend the City of Brisbane Act 2010, the Electoral Act 1992, the Local Government Act 2009 and the Local Government Electoral Act 2011 to implement recommendations from the Crime and Corruption Commission’s (CCC) ‘Operation Belcarra Report: A blueprint for integrity and addressing corruption risk in local government’.

    The Report made 31 recommendations designed to reduce the risk of corruption and increase transparency, integrity and accountability in Queensland local governments.

    My Government takes the recommendations very seriously and I am proud to say that we support, or support in principle, all 31 recommendations.

    We are resolute in our commitment to improve transparency and integrity at all levels of government.

    The CCC report provides a blueprint to improve equity, transparency, integrity and accountability in Queensland local government elections and decision-making.

    As noted by the CCC, allegations of this nature have been repeatedly examined over the last 25 years. This highlights the potential for donations from property developers to lead to the perception of corruption.

    As elected representatives, we all hold positions of considerable responsibility.

    We must always act in a way that reflects the trust that has been placed in us by our communities.

    Let me make this clear – Queensland is home to some of the most innovative and successful local governments in the nation.

    Councils are led by mayors and councillors who are passionate and committed to serving their communities.

    I know the majority of local government elected representatives are doing exceptional work; work in the best interests of their council and community, and I want to acknowledge their efforts.

    I have confidence in the State’s local government system.

    But the system is not perfect and, when problems are identified, we should address them.

    Mr Speaker, my Government is moving swiftly on the Operation Belcarra report, particularly on two key areas which are addressed in the Bill I introduce today.

    The Bill today specifically introduces a prohibition on property developer donations.  

    As I have made very clear, I will not make rules for local government that I am not prepared to follow myself.

    That is why the ban on property developer donations will apply at both the state and local government level.

    Similar to the approach in New South Wales, Queensland will introduce a ban on political donations from property developers at the State level.

    This is an important step, given the State is also involved in development assessment, whether it be through environmental approvals or the power to call in a development if it involves a state interest.

    Mr Speaker, it is my intention that this ban will apply from today.

    The Bill inserts a new subdivision 4 in Part 11, Division 8 in the Electoral Act 1992 and a new division 1A in Part 6 in the Local Government Electoral Act 2011 which makes it unlawful for a donation from a prohibited donor to be directly or indirectly made or accepted.

    The term “prohibited donor” is defined to include a property developer and their close associates, such as related corporations, directors and their spouses, and any industry representative organisation whose members are mainly property developers.

    For the purposes of the ban, a political donation is defined to include direct and indirect gifts to a political party, elected member or candidate in an election.

    While gifts made to an entity in a private capacity are specifically excluded from the ban, it will apply to political party subscription fees which exceed $1000 per year and any fundraising contributions.

    The Bill includes a range of new offences with strong penalties, including a specific provision for prohibited donations to be recovered by the State. Under these provisions, if a person accepts a prohibited donation, the State may recover up to twice the amount or value of the donation.

    The Bill also strengthens the requirements about how councillor conflicts of interest – real or perceived – are managed.

    Mr Speaker, the Bill introduces requirements for additional information to be included when a councillor declares a conflict of interest or a material personal interest in a matter.

    This will enable the community to have a better understanding of precisely what the conflict is when it is declared.

    The Bill also establishes an obligation on other councillors to report a councillor’s conflict of interest or material personal interest, if they believe, or suspect on reasonable grounds, that the councillor in question has an interest that has not been declared.

    The Bill also introduces significantly stronger penalties for non-compliance by councillors with the tighter conflict of interest obligations.

    Mr Speaker, I know that during consideration and debate on this bill – both in this Chamber and in the public arena – references will be made to extending the ban on donations from property developers to other types of donors.

    In response, I wish to draw everyone’s attention to pages 78 and 79 of the CCC’s report on Operation Belcarra.

    On those pages, the CCC clearly states that other types of donors do not demonstrate the same risk of actual or perceived corruption in Queensland local government as property developers.

    Furthermore, the CCC concludes that, quote, “a more encompassing ban is not appropriate”.

    I am prepared to be guided by the advice provided by our independent corruption watchdog, and I urge others to do the same.

    Mr Speaker, this Bill is part of a comprehensive suite of reforms aimed at increasing transparency, integrity and accountability in state and local government.

    It is consistent with – and continues to reinforce – my Government’s well-established record on integrity and accountability.

    Earlier this year, my Government introduced Australia’s first real-time electronic donation disclosure system to ensure that Queenslanders are fully informed when they go to the polls.

    A new model for the management of councillor complaints is also currently before the House.

    My Government has never waivered from the principle that elected officials must meet the community’s reasonable and legitimate expectation of integrity.

    Under the former government, we saw transparency and integrity utterly undermined.

    This Bill reinforces our commitment to integrity and transparency. I am proud to lead a Government that has worked tirelessly to restore these values.

    Mr Speaker, I remind Honourable Members this legislation adopts the recommendations from the extensive and independent investigation by the Crime and Corruption Commission. 

    While I respect the views of stakeholders, including those who argue against a ban on property developer donations, the CCC – our standing royal commission – found this to be risk of corruption. 

    The CCC concluded: ‘There is a real risk of corruption when donations are made with the expectation that the recipient will, in return, make decisions that deliver material benefits to the donor.’

    In this year - the 30th anniversary of the Moonlight State and the initiation of the Fitzgerald Inquiry that led to the formation of the CCC’s precursor, the Criminal Justice Commission - the Parliament and all Members of Parliament needs to ensure we guard against the risk of corruption – real or perceived - re-emerging in the body politic. 

    That is why my Government has taken such significant actions around lowering the threshold for declaring political donations and introducing Australia’s first system of real-time disclosure of political donations.

    Mr Speaker, I commend the Bill to the House.

    Link to the CCC report, Operation Belcarra Report: A blueprint for integrity and addressing corruption risk in local government,

    Link to the Queensland Government's report