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On 1 May 2019 the Local Government Electoral (Implementing Stage 2 of Belcarra) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 was introduced to the Queensland Legislative Assembly.

The Bill has been referred to the Economics and Governance Committee who conducted an inquiry into the Bill. The submissions made, recordings and transcripts for the public hearings can be located on the Committee’s website.

On 21 June 2019, the Committee released its report which is now being considered by the State Government before the Bill is debated by Parliament. Should the Bill be passed, these reforms will apply to local governments and candidates for the 2020 local government elections. More information will be made available in due course by the Department of Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs here.

Election expenditure records will need to be kept from 1 May 2019 by all candidates and groups of candidates for the 2020 local government elections if the Local Government Electoral (Implementing Stage 2 of Belcarra) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 is passed.

The Belcarra Report found that good government requires elections to be held on a level playing field, with equal participation available to all.

Belcarra also stressed the need for complete transparency about who candidates are, how their campaigns are funded, and their interests and affiliations – along with their relationship with other candidates.

The proposed local government reforms informed by the Belcarra Report and discussions with stakeholders include:

  • Compulsory preferential voting
  • Compulsory candidate training
  • Tighter regulation of discretionary funds
  • Clarification of Conflict of Interest and Material Personal Interest provisions.

An information paper (PDF, 357KB) outlining the legislation amendments proposed to be considered is available. The paper is structured in four sections; before, during, after an election and elected councils. Following significant consultation with Mayors, Councillors and stakeholders, proposed changes are detailed in the key changes to the reforms (PDF, 161KB) document however, is not intended to reflect all drafting changes proposed.

The Government proposes to consult further with stakeholders on this issue, with the aim for public funding to be in place immediately following the March 2020 local government election. The estimated costs table (PDF, 170KB) shows as an examples only, figures for each local government area that are sorted by remuneration categories for ease of reference. Remuneration categories are based on those established by the former Local Government Remuneration and Discipline Tribunal. This table is intended as a guide only.

The publishing of Councillor registers of interest is proposed to be standardised so that the community is better informed about potential conflicts of interests.

In addition to the proposed reforms in the Bill, the Government is proposing to make amendments to regulations (PDF, 267KB) to further improve council integrity, increase transparency, encourage diversity and ensure consistency in the local government system. The proposed amendments also reflect recommendations and suggestions received from the Queensland Audit Office, Queensland Law Society, Ombudsman and the Local Government Association of Queensland.

Amendments to the Local Government Regulation 2012, City of Brisbane Regulation 2012 and Local Government Electoral Regulation 2012 are proposed to occur in multiple tranches during 2019 and will include consideration of:

  • Tightening controls around the issues councils may discuss in closed meetings and ensure resolutions and minutes have enough information for the community to understand why councils have made decisions;
  • Councils being required to consult with the community on their budgets;
  • Strengthening the requirements on the use of council-controlled entities; and
  • Publishing of Councillor registers of interest will also be standardised so that the community is better informed about potential conflicts of interests.