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    Coat of ArmsMedia Release
    Minister for Main Roads and Local Government
    The Honourable Warren Pitt

    Local Government Bill delivers greater accountability and transparency

    Minister for Main Roads and Local Government
    The Honourable Warren Pitt

    Wednesday, October 29, 2008

    Local Government Bill delivers greater accountability and transparency

    Critics of Queensland’s new Local Government Bill 2008 should look beyond self-interest and embrace the principles of improved transparency, accountability and governance that have been enshrined in the new legislative framework, Local Government Minister Warren Pitt said today.

    Mr Pitt, who introduced the Bill yesterday during the regional sitting of Parliament in Cairns, said the new provisions addressed the concerns of stakeholders who wanted local government laws that were more flexible, less prescriptive and easier to use than the existing laws.

    “The Bill meets community expectations by providing clear and reasonable standards for public administration such as transparent decision making, inclusive community consultation, accountability for decisions and integrity of behaviour,” Mr Pitt said.

    “In the interests of ensuring high levels of integrity and transparency among elected officials, councillors will be required to report conflicts of interest, misconduct or material personal interest.

    “By mandating the duty to disclose unethical and illegal behaviour, honest councillors will be protected from harassment and intimidation by any councillor seeking to profit from their position on council.

    “Councillors and all other public officials are already required to report allegations of official misconduct under the Crime and Misconduct Act, so claims that these measures do not apply in other tiers of government are obviously flawed.”

    Mr Pitt said the Liberal National Party refused to accept that modern councils needed a contemporary legal framework to address the challenges of the future.

    “The difference is clear – while we are looking forward and helping build stronger councils, the Liberal National Party and the Shadow Minister have shown they are policy dinosaurs when it comes to local government reform,” he said.

    “They want to stay rooted to the past at a time when councils are telling me that the laws need to be modernised and simplified, which is what we’re doing.”

    Mr Pitt said the new Bill specifically focused on the separation of powers between a council’s elected and administrative arms.

    “The Bill makes it very clear that councillors are responsible for setting the strategic direction of the local government, while the administrative arm – headed by the chief executive officer – manages the operational process and procedures required to achieve this direction,” Mr Pitt said.

    “The elected council is responsible for appointing the CEO to implement the council’s strategic direction; however, councils may not appoint other local government employees.

    “This approach is consistent with other levels of government, such as at state level where MPs do not have the power to appoint officers in the public service.

    “The Bill makes it clear that only the mayor can direct, discipline or appraise a CEO, while only the CEO can appoint or discipline employees.

    “However, while councillors cannot direct employees, interaction is encouraged and the CEO can implement guidelines for councillors who may wish to ask a senior council officer for advice that may help them make a decision.”

    Mr Pitt said changes to the provisions relating to the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) were consistent with the move towards a more contemporary, simplified and equitable Act.

    “There are several representative bodies for local government in Queensland including Local Government Managers Australia, the Urban Local Government Association of Queensland and the Aboriginal Local Government Association of Queensland,” he said.

    “However, none of these bodies are recognised in the current Act.

    “In fact, with the exception of two States, Australian jurisdictions do not recognise local government representative associations in local government legislation. There is also no tradition of recognising any other peak or advisory bodies in Queensland statutes.

    “In a legal sense, the LGAQ is not liquidated or abolished by the Bill. In fact, arrangements have been made for the LGAQ to make a smooth transition from its current incorporated status under the Local Government Act to incorporation under another Act

    “The LGAQ has an important role to play in the local government sector in this state and I expect this role to continue after the laws are passed.”

    Media contact: Minister Pitt’s Office 3227 8819