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Inside track: Local Government

05 November 2019

#Local Government

David Quinn

Published by David Quinn, Jenny Humphris

Inside track: Local Government

Changes to local government election laws

After a year of to-ing and fro-ing, the Queensland Government has now passed the second wave of local government reforms following from the Crime and Corruption Commission’s Belcarra Inquiry and the Soorley Inquiry.

The news is that a lot of the fro-ing by councillors and the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) has resulted in some significant last minute changes to the most contentious proposals in the Local Government Electoral (Implementing Stage 2 of Belarra) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 (Bill).

There are three big ticket items amongst those changes that affect councillors intending to stand for office in next year’s elections.

The most significant change is the removal of the proposed new regime for conflicts of interest.

Instead of the proposed detailed regulation of what is and is not a conflict of interest, and how conflicts must be dealt with, the existing arrangements under the Local Government Act (and the City of Brisbane Act) will continue indefinitely. So councillors will continue to declare personal interests when they arise at meetings and voluntarily absent themselves from discussions or leave it to their fellow councillors to make a decision about their involvement in the meeting.

The proposed new obligations for councillors to periodically update and confirm their register of interests have also been scrapped.

The third change has been to jettison an issue of significant concern to many councillors. The proposal to deem that a councillor knows the source of any gift or loan has been removed, so the risk of councillors being prosecuted for genuinely being unaware of the ultimate source of a gift is gone.

In addition to the big three, the amendments have also scratched the proposal to introduce full preferential voting into local council elections. Instead, the existing optional preferential voting system will be retained.

Despite the removal of those contentious proposals, the amendments that have been retained mean that councillors need to plan carefully as they prepare for next year’s elections.

The big stick of automatic removal from office is now law. After the election, councillors and groups of candidates must provide the Electoral Commission with details of all the donations and other gifts they received worth $500 or more. If the returns are not filed by the due date the councillor “immediately ceases to hold office” [1].

Candidates will still be required to have a dedicated bank account for their campaign which requires payments only by electronic funds transfer, debit card or cash. Payment of expenses by a credit card are prohibited.

Changes to what constitutes a group of candidates have been significantly broadened and clarified, with requirements for registration of groups and their members, and regulation of their expenditure similar to individual candidates.

Nominations for election must now disclose whether a candidate has been a member of a political party or a trade or professional organisation within the previous year and provide details of the candidate’s dedicated bank account.

It is hard to criticise the aims of greater transparency and accountability that underlies all these reforms but, despite the last minute changes, candidates for office in local government will have some work to do to ensure they meet the practical obligations now placed on them to achieve those lofty aims.

Authors: David Quinn & Jenny Humphris 

[1] s172(1) of the Local Government Act 2009; s174(1) of the City of Brisbane Act 2010

In the media

NHVR Portal now features Vehicle Standards
Vehicle Standards have been added to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) Portal following a site upgrade on 16 October. Users can now lodge Vehicle Standards applications for In-Principle Support, Exemption Permits and Modifications. They can also attach engineers’ reports, images, diagrams and schematics (25 October 2019).  More... 

Australia-first waste solution sparks interest
A Polish company building an Australia-first high-tech waste treatment plant in Nowra has been holding talks about the technology with other councils across NSW and Victoria (24 October 2019).  More... 

Lord Mayors represented at Mayors’ climate conference, Seoul 
Participation in the Seoul conference will provide the opportunity to highlight Australian capital cities commitment to seek stronger climate action in Australia, as well as demonstrating the willingness of capital cities to work closely with ICLEI Oceania to support the GCoM alliance through a new partnership arrangement (24 October 2019).   More... 

ALGA advocacy helps secure extra $50m disaster mitigation funding
Advocacy by the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) and others has resulted in Labor and the Coalition agreeing to lift the Commonwealth’s proposed Emergency Response Fund to $200 million a year from $150m, with the extra funding dedicated to mitigation (18 October 2019).  More... 

First round of regional airport funding opens
Applications are now open for the first round of the Federal Government’s $100 million Regional Airports Program, following the release of its funding guidelines. It will help address the $170 million aeronautical infrastructure deficit that exists in the regions. Applications for the first round of funding will be accepted from 24 October to 12 December (15 October 2019).  More... 

Queensland

Gold Coast faces more flooding and fires, but has no climate change strategy
Data from a risk analysis firm suggests one in six Gold Coast properties could become uninsurable due to an increased frequency of natural disasters, but the local council does not have a formal climate change strategy (26 October 2019).  More... 

Star pitches $2b Gold Coast 'master plan' in bid to sink second casino
Star Entertainment Group has unveiled a multibillion-dollar 'master plan' to develop assets on the Gold Coast in a bid to convince the Queensland government to abandon plans for a second casino in the city (24 October 2019).  More... 

3D simulation tools could reduce flood heights and save millions
A multimillion-dollar 3D planning tool allowing planners to visualise and then choose the most flood effective revegetation plan was launched at Brisbane's River Symposium (23 October 2019).  More... 

Council push to increase rooftop gardens on high rises
Brisbane City Council is moving to change how rooftop gardens are viewed in development decisions (22 October 2019).  More... 

Affordable high-rise units get green light in Woolloongabba
Brisbane council's city planning committee unanimously supported the development, which also had the backing of Greens councillor Jonathan Sri ( 22 October 2019).  More... 

Gold Coast has 'lost its mojo' as development and population boom throws character into question
Former Gold Coast architect Philip Follent said the council's proposed city plan — the way it intends to accommodate population growth — had taken a "one-size-fits-all" approach at the detriment to diversity of suburban character (18 October 2019).  More... 

In your backyard: why people need a say on planning that affects their local community
Good planning needs integrity, and public participation should play a role in that. But a row over a high-rise development proposed for suburban Brisbane shows what happens when the public feels left out of the planning process (17 October 2019).  More... 

Residents rail against council plan to axe 115 car spaces
A Brisbane City Council proposal to remove 70 per cent of car spaces along Dornoch Terrace to make it safer for recreational cyclists has angered some members of the local community (16 October 2019).  More... 

Mansfield Tavern to be demolished for restaurant and retail precinct
A south Brisbane tavern will be demolished and replaced with an urban centre for retail and dining. The Mansfield Tavern at 181 Wecker Street will be demolished after Brisbane City Council's city planning committee voted to support the development (15 October 2019).  More... 

Greens councillor says sorry for fake voicemail but won't pay fine
Jonathan Sri lives in inner-city Brisbane and is the city's only Greens councillor. He admits he was wrong to leave a fake voicemail message on the phone of Ipswich MP Jennifer Howard (18 October 2019).  More...  

Councils welcome reversal on voting changes
This will ensure the retention of optional preferential voting for next year’s council elections, ensuring voters have as much control over their vote as they like (15 October 2019).  More... 

In practice and courts

Beta Biosecurity Website
The National Biosecurity Committee is seeking user feedback from on a new biosecurity website aimed at helping councils, businesses and individuals better understand how to identify and respond to biosecurity threats (October 2019)

National Airports Safeguarding Advisory Group
The NASAG is undertaking a review of implementation of the National Airports Safeguarding Framework (NASF). The review is intended to consider implementation of NASF across jurisdictions; and seeks submissions from all levels of government, industry and community stakeholders. See more information about the review here. Submissions closes on 22 November 2019. 

Consultation: DR AS 1926.1:2019, Swimming pool safety, Part 1: Safety barriers for swimming pools
The released draft Australian Standard is related to swimming pool safety barriers for public comment and local governments are invited to have their say. The draft  proposes expanding elements of AS1926.1-2012 to give additional information to pool owners, pool users and certifiers so they have a better understanding of the design and construction of a child-resistant barrier. To make a submission register at the Standards Australia Standards Hub site. Responses are due by 31 December 2019.

Social Media for Government Summit, Melbourne: 4 to 6 December
This event will address the most significant challenges being faced and uncover the knowledge, strategies and technology to improve the impact and value of social media efforts.  More... 

National Local Government Workforce Summit: Tweed Heads, 13-14 November 2019
Featuring expert speakers, interactive workshops, case studies.  More...

National Local Roads and Transport Congress, 18-20 November 2019
This year’s theme is ‘breaking through for modern transport’. Topics to be covered include the future of transport and how local government can benefit, and an update on the state of the country’s infrastructure by Infrastructure Australia CEO, Romily Madew.   More... 

Victoria

EPA Charter of Consultation open for comment
Victoria EPA is encouraging community members to have their say in the development of a Charter of Consultation. EPA has created a Draft Charter to lead the discussion, which is available for public comment here. To have your say and shape the future of environmental engagement in Victoria, click here. Consultation will be open until 10 November 2019. 

s.186 exemption for council recycling contracts
The Victorian Local Government Minister has announced a state-wide s.186 exemption for local councils to extend their recycling collection contracts to 30 June 2021. Attached is a copy of the letter sent to all councils co-signed by Minister Somyurek and the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, the Hon. Lily D’Ambrosio MP. 

Queensland

LGAQ: The Final Motions Outcomes from Annual Conference are now available
25 October 2019 - The Annual Conference 2019 Motions Outcomes are now available. A total of 88 motions were submitted at the 2019 Annual Conference, with three withdrawn.

LGAQ: How will the 1080 stockpile depletion impact your council?
It is anticipated that this consultation process will result in a 1080 supply strategy developed collaboratively with local government, industry and landholders. Feedback was required by 1 November 2019 (24 October 2019).  More... 

21 local government areas to receive new land valuations in 2020
Landowners in 21 Queensland local government areas (LGAs) will receive new land valuations in March 2020. In LGAs where new valuations are not issued in 2020, the most recent annual valuation will remain effective for rating, land tax and state land rental (18 October 2019).  More...

PCA: Local Government Electoral amendments passed
The Queensland Parliament has passed the Local Government Electoral (Impending Stage 2 of Belcarra) and Other Legislation Amendments Bill 2019. The Bill aims to improve transparency and public accountability of local government elections in line with State and Commonwealth electoral and governance frameworks.  To access a copy and to view the Explanatory Notes explaining the amendments, click here. (18 October 2019).  More... 

LGAQ: Government releases Belcarra Stage 2 support and resources
The Queensland Government has released a suite of materials to support elected members and prospective local government candidates (18 October 2019).  More... 

Stage 2 changes
Stage 2 commences on 1 July 2019 and introduces the remaining waste-related ERAs.
The information sheet Fees for new waste environmentally relevant activities (ERAs) details the new fees that apply for waste-related ERAs from the first anniversary day after 15 November 2019 or the next anniversary day if the environmental authority is amended before 15 November 2019.

North Queensland Regional Plan
The draft NQ Regional Plan is a 25 year strategic, statutory planning document for the local government areas of Burdekin, Charter Towers, Hinchinbrook, Palm Island and Townsville. Consultation on the draft document closes on 22 November 2019. For more information please click here

Consultation: Gold Coast Line – new stations               
Open until 8 November 2019. Have your say on the concept designs for the three planned new rail stations on the Gold Coast line at Pimpama, Merrimac and Helensvale North.  More... 

Note: Safer Buildings: Parts 2 and 3a deadlines extended
Bodies corporate and building owners across Queensland have been given additional time to complete Parts 2 and 3a of the Safer Buildings combustible cladding checklist. The new deadlines will be as follows: Part 3a: extended from 27 August 2019 to 31 October 2019.  More... 

PCA: Reef regulations amendment Bill passed by Parliament
The Environmental Protection (Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 was passed on 19 September 2019 with the new Reef protection regulations proposed to come into effect on 1 December 2019.  More... 

LGAQ: Container Refund Scheme (CRS) – Revenue sharing arrangements
Transitional arrangement provisions in the Waste Reduction and Recycling (Container Refund Scheme - Material Recovery Agreements) Amendment Regulation 2019 has been extended to 31 December 2019, allowing more time to find a sustainable (default) arrangement.   More... 

Waste tyre receivers in Queensland now need an environmental authority
An environmental authority (EA) is now required for activities that involve receiving and sorting, dismantling, baling or storing greater than 4t or 4m3 of end-of-life tyres at any one time. Learn more about the waste changes. Current operators have until 23 November 2019 to hold an EA. 

Reminder:  Central Queensland Bushfires Flexible Funding Grants Round 2
Grants of up to $150,000 are available to help Central Queensland communities Banana, Bundaberg, Central Highlands, Gladstone, Isaac, Livingstone, Mackay and Rockhampton. Closed on 5 November 2019. NOTE: Recipients of Round One grants are also encouraged to apply. More... 

Cases

Clarence City Council v Commonwealth of Australia [2019] FCA 1721
COSTS – no reason to depart from usual order – no separate events
In each proceeding, the applicant pay the second respondent’s costs of the proceeding, including the costs of the second respondent’s cross-claim against the first respondent.
Held: On 24 September 2019, I made orders dismissing both proceedings on the ground that the councils had no standing to seek the declaratory relief the subject of their application.

Lady Crown and on Behalf of Ngati Rangihou Corrangie Hapu Dba Office of the Crown v Parramatta City Council, in the matter of Parramatta City Council [2019] FCA 1668
CORPORATIONS – application for order that Parramatta City Council be wound up in insolvency – whether council is a “body corporate” within the meaning of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth)
PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE – application for summary dismissal – no basis for entitlement to relief sought – originating process summarily dismissed
Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) ss 9, 112, 119, 459A, 459E, 459G, 459P, 459Q
Judiciary Act 1903 (Cth) s 78B; Local Government Act 1993 (NSW) ss 7(a), 219, 220

Queensland

22 October 2019
Application filed by the State of Queensland v Queensland Council of Unions & Ors [2019] QIRC 151 (B/2019/32; B/2019/33; B/2019/34) O'Connor VP Thompson IC Hartigan IC 27 September 2019

21 October 2019
In the termination of the Cairns Regional Council Certified Agreement 2012 [2019] QIRC 147 (CB/2019/77) Industrial Commissioner Dwyer 15 October 2019

In the making of the Cairns Regional Council Certified Agreement 2019 [2019] QIRC 148 (CB/2019/78) Industrial Commissioner Dwyer 15 October 2019

Legislation

Victoria
Date of second reading speech: 16 October 2019
Building Amendment (Cladding Rectification) Bill 2019

Date of second reading speech: 16 October 2019
Melbourne Strategic Assessment (Environment Mitigation Levy) Bill 2019

Queensland

Bills

Electoral and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019
Introduced by: Hon Y D'Ath MP on 1/05/2019
Stage reached: Passed with amendment on 16/10/2019
This Bill was passed on 16 October 2019 but is yet to receive Royal Assent. The Bill implements important reforms to improve the integrity, transparency and public accountability of the state's electoral system.

Local Government Electoral (Implementing Stage 2 of Belcarra) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019
Introduced by: Hon S Hinchliffe MP on 1/05/2019
Stage reached: Passed with amendment on 16/10/2019

Transport Legislation (Disability Parking Permit Scheme)
Introduced by: Mr N Dametto MP on 16/10/2019
Stage reached: Referred to Committee on 16/10/2019

Subordinate legislation as made – 18 October 2019
No 207 Transport Infrastructure (Public Marine Facilities) (Fees) Amendment Regulation 2019
No 208 Building (Approval of Amendment of QDC) Amendment Regulation 2019

Subordinate legislation as made - Reminder
No 196 Environmental Protection (Rehabilitation Reform) Amendment Regulation 2019
This Regulation amends the Environmental Protection Regulation 2019 to implement the rehabilitation reforms under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (EP Act) to: support decisions under the EP Act in relation to Progressive Rehabilitation and Closure Plan (PRCP) schedules; support the implementation of Public Interest Evaluations; and set the date for commencement of the PRCP framework as 1 November 2019.

Disclaimer
The information in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, we do not guarantee that the information in this newsletter is accurate at the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future.

David Quinn

Published by David Quinn, Jenny Humphris

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