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.
A local government must adopt by resolution an investigation policy about how it deals with suspected inappropriate conduct of councillors referred by the Independent Assessor (IA) to the local council. The policy must be published on the local government’s website.
A local government’s investigation policy must:
- state the process for investigating suspected inappropriate conduct of councillors referred to council by the IA
- state the circumstances in which an entity other than council may investigate the conduct
- be consistent with natural justice
- require that councillors and other persons who make complaints about councillor conduct are given a notice about the outcome of the investigations.
The policy may also allow the local government to ask the president of the Councillor Conduct Tribunal to investigate the conduct of a councillor and make recommendations about dealing with the conduct.
It is the local government’s responsibility to ensure that any investigation into a councillor’s conduct is conducted in a way that is consistent with the requirements of section 150AF(2) of the Local Government Act 2009 (LGA):
- any recommendations from the IA made under section 150AC(3)
- the investigation policy itself, where it is not inconsistent with the IA’s recommendation (section 150AF(2)(a))
- any other way of investigating that the local government decides by resolution (section150AF(2)(b))
- section 150AF(3) requires that the resolution states the decision and reasons for the decision to conduct the investigation in another way.
To ensure an investigation process is consistent with these requirements, any policy should include the following components:
- natural justice
- receipt of the referral notice from the IA
- who investigates
- early resolution
- assistance for the investigator
- information about misconduct and corrupt conduct
- completion of investigation and notice about outcome.
Where a local government has not adopted an investigation policy on or after 3 December 2018, the amended LGA incudes transitional arrangements to ensure a complaint referred to council by the Office of the Independent Assessor is dealt with in an appropriate way.
The council must the decide, by resolution, how the matter will be investigated, including giving the reasons for the decision.
It is recommended councils draft, consider and adopt an investigations policy as soon as is practicable to ensure consistent, transparent and accountable actions are taken in response to any complaint the council receives.
An Example investigation policy (DOC, 437KB) has been developed to assist councils.