On 1 October 2020, the Governor in Council made the Local Government Legislation Amendment Regulation
(No. 1) 2020.
This Regulation contains amendments for some matters as part of the broader local government reforms agenda, as well as amendments in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, and other emerging needs. This includes the following:
- Amended procedures for the sale of land by councils to recover overdue rates or charges.
- Requirements for Councils to publish audited financial statements of their controlled entities and to notify the Minister of changes relating to their controlled entities.
- Modernised advertising requirements for community notification about contracting and procurement-related activities, sale of land processes and Councillor remuneration for Brisbane City Council.
- Enabling Councils to make an extraordinary decision about levying rates and charges outside of the annual budget meeting for the remainder of the 2020–21 financial year in response to COVID-19.
- Extending the Kuranda rail levy until 31 December 2021and the expiry of related provisions until 30 June 2022 and providing for annual payment and reporting requirements for the rail operator.
- Improving transparency by requiring councils to publish an extract of a councillor’s register of interests on the council’s website showing the councillor’s current interests.
On 18 June 2020 the Electoral and Other Legislation (Accountability, Integrity and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2020 was passed by the Queensland Legislative Assembly.
The majority of the changes come into effect on Monday, 12 October 2020, including:
- improved registers of interests that align with the requirements for Members of Parliament
- new accountability requirements for Councillor administration support staff
- new Councillor advisor code of conduct
- more transparent meeting agendas and minutes
- fewer matters allowed to be discussed in closed meetings.
Following extensive consultation and feedback from Councils and other stakeholders since 2018, the changes also introduce an improved framework for managing Councillor conflicts of interests including:
- removing the subjective ‘material personal interest’ test and replacing it with a clearer list of prescribed interests that prohibit Councillors from taking part in decisions
- requiring Councillors to declare other interests that could affect public trust in decisions
- empowering Councillors to manage declarable interests based on the specific circumstances, allowing them to participate if it is in the public interest and transparently record the reasons why it is in the public interest in the meeting minutes
- setting a clear $500 floor to give certainty about small donations
- clarifying that ownership of shares in public companies is not a prescribed interest unless ownership is above five per cent
- requiring Councillors to declare interests outside of meetings to the Chief Executive Officer
- clarifying that interests do not need to be redeclared every time the same matter is considered, unless the interest or matter changes
- improving integrity by restricting the ordinary business exception for planning matters only to new planning schemes or amendments applying to the whole local government area
- allowing Councillors to voluntarily declare an interest in an ordinary business matter where appropriate to build community trust in the outcome of the decision
- improving rules for quorums to allow a minority of Councillors to decide on the participation of Councillors with a declarable interest and allowing all Councillors to vote on any decision to delegate the matter if multiple Councillors have a conflict.
Minor updates have been made to the code of conduct for Councillors in Queensland that include a responsibility for Councillors to ensure advisors are aware of their responsibilities.
The Department of Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs is also developing new online registers of interests forms to help make registering and updating interests easier while improving transparency. These online forms will be available shortly.
Councillors, Chief Executive Officers and Senior Executive Officers must review their registers by 11 November 2020 to meet the requirements of the new legislation. Councillor advisors appointed under the new legislation will be required to register their interests within 30 days of their appointment. The Department’s Governance team are available to support you with the registers of interests forms and can be contacted on 07 3452 7148 or email@example.com.
View detailed information to support Councillors available on the new Councillor resources web page to assist with these changes.