Labor’s proposed changes to local government go too far

“In light of recent integrity concerns at Logan and Ipswich councils, Labor has introduced the Belcarra reforms in an attempt to minimise corruption, improve transparency and toughen rules within the local government sector,” Mr Batt said.

“Labor has divided the Belcarra reforms into three stages. The first stage saw political donations from property developers banned. The second and current stage, which is set to be debated in the near future, will see rules regarding a Councillor’s real or perceived conflict of interest strengthened. And, the third and final stage will seek to mandate full-preferential voting, prior to the March 2020 local government elections.

“The LNP team in Queensland is made up of a number of MPs who have decades of experience in local government, including myself.

“As a former Councillor of ten years, I acknowledge the need for increased community confidence and improved transparency at all levels of government, but I believe Labor’s proposed changes go too far and are based on the actions of a small minority of elected representatives.

“For some perspective; under the current local government laws, if Labor MP Jackie Trad was a Councillor, she would have broken the law by failing to declare ownership of her Woolloongabba property. But, because she is an MP and there is no specific state government rule applicable to her actions, there have been no repercussions. Regardless of this loophole, Labor is looking to further regulate Councillors instead of dealing with their own internal integrity crisis.

“I don’t deny that there are tweaks that could be made to local government regulations, but Labor’s amendments will restrict and negatively impact local government Councillors and staff across Queensland, instead of letting them get on with the job.

“The LNP has a proud history of working in partnership with local governments, we know councils work best when they are empowered to stand up for their local area and have the tools they need to be responsive to the needs of our communities and the challenges these present.

“I am also concerned with Labor’s local government voting reforms, the associated costs and the unrealistic time-frames.

“The LGAQ ran a survey which found that 70% of those surveyed did not wish to see the changes to voting introduced to the electoral system, as proposed by Labor. Despite this and despite it being unclear whether councils even have the time and/or the resources to undertake the proposed new practices, Labor will still rush these laws through before the next local government election.

“The introduction of compulsory preferential voting will mean the cost of running local government elections will rise from $13 million to more than $26 million, with Queensland ratepayers being forced to pick up the bill.

“We know that local governments want the same thing as the LNP – to create jobs and provide safe and liveable communities. In stark contrast, Labor is happy to implement changes to elections that come at the expense of our local roads, parks, gardens, water and sewage.

“Labor should be spending time consulting with Local Governments instead of rushing through and forcing new legislation on them because of a few bad eggs.”

Thursday, 12 September 2019

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