Labor urged to support crackdown on badly behaved councillors

Significant reforms to the Local Government sector are poised to pass Parliament – but the Labor Party continues to hold them up and push ahead with amendments that would destroy the integrity of a key reform measure.

This important sector shake-up was initiated following calls from local councils and will give them the tools they need to deliver better outcomes for ratepayers.

Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said that while the Government has been willing to work with the Opposition and crossbench on 24 proposed amendments, there are two Labor Party amendments which are unacceptable.

“A key initiative of this reform is the establishment of an independent Behavioural Standards Panel, which has been designed to deal with serious behavioural matters effectively and efficiently,” Attorney-General Chapman said.

“Elected members who repeatedly or seriously misbehave will be referred to the Panel, which can then resolve the matter in an impartial manner.

“The composition of this Panel has been carefully considered by the Government and the Local Government Association, as it is crucial the Panel’s findings and sanctions on members are accepted by all as fair and balanced.

“The initial Bill proposed the Panel have three members – a nominee of the Minister for Local Government, a nominee of the LGA and the presiding member to be a joint nominee of the Minister and the LGA.

“However, Labor’s amendments to the Panel’s composition threaten its independence and, therefore, effectiveness, by adding an extra member – a union representative.

“It’s clear that Labor’s union ties are threatening the integrity of this Panel and undermining its impartiality.

“In the original Bill no person is ‘represented’ on the Panel – that is elected members or council employees – ensuring there is a distance between the Panel and the local government sector.

“That’s why, once again, we are proposing a compromise. Our amendment would mean registered industrial associations are consulted with and involved throughout the Panel’s process – but will not have a representative directly on the Panel,” she said.

Involvement includes;

  • Ensuring membership of the Panel includes qualifications, knowledge, expertise and experience in industrial relations amongst its skills
  • Consultation with a registered industrial association on the appointment of members
  • Ensuring the Panel considers submissions from an industrial association at each stage of complaint and inquiry consideration, where an affected person is an employee.

“This will strike the right balance between involving union representatives, and maintaining the integrity of the Panel.

“I urge the Labor Party to put its union ties aside, and support our amendment which has strong support from the sector,” she said.