Friday 5 June 2009

An answer to our prayers, or not

As has been mentioned before on CairnsBlog, a new Act governing the operation of Queensland’s local government was passed in Parliament in a marathon session yesterday.

In the absence of a copy of the Bill, and all the amendments that were subsequently incorporated, John from Kuranda has gleaned the following from the various speeches made by members from both sides of politics.

The Local Government Act 2009 provides a principles based framework for decision making and governance, and it gives local governments the flexibility to decide processes that suit their size, location and administrative circumstances as long as the processes are rational, justifiable and transparent.

This has been called principles based legislation, which is a bit different from what we have had in the past.

It will allow councils to focus on outcomes and develop their own operational procedures and processes.

The legislation will no longer contain detailed descriptions of roles and responsibilities, which will be set out in regulations.

No one apparently has seen these regulations. The Minister, I understand, will be convening a working group to work through those regulations before they come into being, and to oversee whether the regulations do dovetail in with the legislation.

This legislation is quite wide ranging. The legislation would seem to empower local governments to do anything that is necessary or convenient to provide good governance and deliver high-quality services to their communities.

The responsibility of councillors is an issue of relevance to Cairns. The new Act goes into a great deal of detail in relation to councillors and their responsibilities. This bill also addresses the role of the mayor and councillors. A great deal of authority is vested in the mayor who is elected by popular vote rather than by his or her fellow councillors. He or she is the sole person able to direct the CEO, including performance management.

The mayor is also responsible for the behaviour of councillors and is able to warn and suspend councillors. Comments were made in Parliament that these powers need to be clearly defined and transparent to ensure they are applied fairly:
"There is a mechanism in this legislation whereby, rather than sacking a whole council, a councillor can be removed. I think that is a better idea, because in many instances that would have solved the problem rather than sacking the whole council which causes a lot of disruption to the areas." - Howard Hobbs, LNP
There are provisions relating to conflicts of interest. Councillors are allowed to determine if another councillor has a conflict and it has been suggested that this could be open to abuse or manipulation. No change has been made to the situation (almost alone in the Commonwealth) where Councillors are still forced to resign should they wish to nominate as a member of Parliament.

The bill also mentions that implementing a new rating system would be prohibitively expensive and unduly complex.

The Shadow Minister, Howard Hobbs said:
“Local government legislation is about striking an appropriate balance between the roles of elected members and those of council employees. Of particular importance is clearly defining the separate roles of the mayor and the chief executive officer of the local government and their relationship.”
In his contribution to the debate, Labor’s Member for Cook, Jason O’Brien said:
“However, the bill does that not by prescribing rules and laws but by establishing a set of principles that undertake how councils should operate.

The principles are transparent and effective processes and decision making in the public interest; sustainable development and management of assets and infrastructure and delivery of effective services; democratic representation, social inclusion and meaningful community engagement; good governance of, and by, local government; and ethical and legal behaviour of councillors and local government employees.”
Once Royal Assent is given, I'm sure that there will be more than a few interested people looking at obtaining a copy of the Act and the accompanying regulations. We can only hope that Cairns Regional Council will be the better for this new piece of legislation.
UPDATE: The legislation, as amended, has now been posted. Here is the link


Anonymous said...

For those interested in reading the bill

S. Northy said...

Let's hope to Christ that it changes the flawed piece of legislation empowering the CEOs full access and management of all Council Reports. We never want to go through another fiasco like this one.

Thornton On Spence said...

It appears that Desley Boyle at long last has the necessary powers to make changes where necessary. Full marks to her for powering this legislation through last night. One has to suspect it was driven by the debacle at CRC. Now she has the opportunity to demonstrate to her critics on this Blog she can deliver and turn this negativity about our Council around.
Watch for quaking boots.

Quickie said...

Geeezzzz ...

Briggs tabled the report he was asked by the Mayor to prepare.
Pyne moved that it be released to the public.
A vote was taken amongst the Councillors and the motion was soundly defeated.
Remember, these Councillors are the peoples' representatives.
It's called democracy ... get used to it.

KitchenSlut said...

You continue to repeat the same ethical nonsense Quickie while pyning (sic) for some kind of military dictatorship at the same time as espousing false democratic principles.

A true liberal (if you understand the word) democracy is not an elected distatorship as you seem to imply or want. I think this Council is not dysfunctional but actually damned more effective and accountable than the last?

However some people seem to have problems with controversy and debate?

Quickie said...

K-Slut ... it's extremely absolutely and totally very very simple, listen up.
The Council, (which included Mayor Val and her political sisters, Kirsten and Diane), voted against Leu’s and Pyne’s resolution, to keep the Brigg's report, dare I say it, SECRET.
Take note, this was the report that Val demanded he prepare.

End of story ...

Bring back the Stocks. said...

This is exactly why we need to "Bring back the stocks". Just imagine the satisfaction we would all get out of a full box of rotten Bowen Mangos or Tomatoes. Judging by the response by the peasants to this issue all the rotten fruit in QLD could be used up on Briggs,Blake,Bonehead,and now it appears Val. Mandate what mandate. A one term council. The peasants may be revolting but we votted this lot in. What a mess and waste of public money the report has been.

Brian, Kewarra said...

Actually Quickie,.... you've

it's extremely absolutely and totally very very simple, listen up.

The Henry report was NOT voted on to keep private. ONLY Briggs determined that.

The Councillors ONLY voted on Brioggs' executive summary - that he put together of the bits that he want to release..

Now look who's corrupt.

Alison Alloway said...

I made a general comment earlier that there were problems with corporatisation. When Governments all over Australia went on a "corporatising binge" in the 1990s, hurriedly cobbled together bits of legislation rushed through Parliaments. The Queensland Governments Corporatisation of Local Governments Legislation in 1996 was one of those, as we participants in this Blog have found out.

I haven't yet fully read through this Amendment but one piece caught my eye:-

(4) The mayor has the following extra responsibilities—
(a) leading and managing meetings of the local government
at which the mayor is the chairperson, including
managing the conduct of the participants at the
(b) proposing the adoption of the local government’s
(c) liaising with the chief executive officer on behalf of the
other councillors;
(d) leading, managing, and providing strategic direction to,
the chief executive officer in order to achieve the high
quality administration of the local government;
(e) directing the chief executive officer, in accordance with
the local government’s policies;
(f) conducting a performance appraisal of the chief
executive officer

Hopefully, this will resolve a lot of issues.