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Department of Premier and Cabinet

Conflict of interest

You are required to act in the best interests of the community. From time to time, however, you may find that you have a private interest (social, familial or financial) that may improperly influence (or be perceived to improperly influence) decisions that need to be made as an elected member. It is your responsibility to ensure that you do not put yourself in a situation where personal interests impact, or are perceived to impact, on your decision making. This is critical to ensure un-biased decision making and to maintain the trust of the community.

Conflicts of interest are either pecuniary or non-pecuniary. Pecuniary interests are where there is an expected financial gain or loss. Non-pecuniary interests are where there are expected gains or losses that are not financial.

Information in the form of written guides accompanying video scenarios on conflict of interest, both pecuniary and non-pecuniary, can be found on the Local Government Division’s website.

General information about conflict of interest obligations across the whole of the public sector can be found on the Integrity Commission’s website, which provides a number of resources and video scenarios to illustrate general conflict of interest principles.

SCENARIO

Councillor A is concerned about whether or not she has a conflict of interest in a matter on the upcoming council agenda. This matter involves the council’s decision on an access road, which is likely to significantly improve access to a key destination. Her brother owns a café in the same area. If the road is approved, she believes that it would improve the travel times to her brother’s cafe, the amenity of the property, and possibly even visitor numbers. She seeks advice from Councillor B as to whether or not she may have a conflict.  Councillor B is concerned that if Councillor A does step out, the council may not have a quorum for this matter.

Option 1 – Declare a pecuniary interest

Under section 51 of the Local Government Act, Councillor A’s brother would be a ‘close associate’, so it is important that Councillor A considers whether or not there would be or be likely to be a financial advantage or disadvantage to her brother if the council decides in a particular manner. Section 52 of the Local Government Act provides a pecuniary interest exemption where a benefit is received in common with a substantial proportion of electors of the municipal area. If Councillor A has identified a pecuniary interest, she should follow the five-step process under the Act.

Option 2 – Declare a (non-pecuniary) conflict of interest

If on the facts of the matter Councillor A considers that there is no financial advantage or disadvantage that would constitute a pecuniary interest, Councillor A should consider whether or not there could be a (non-pecuniary) conflict of interest under her council’s code of conduct. This may include emotional or social interests that would result in a bias, perceived bias or potential bias in a decision. If there is such a conflict, Councillor A should follow the code of conduct requirements. Councillor A could seek legal advice via the general manager, but ultimately it is her responsibility to ensure that she is meeting her legal obligations.

Option 3 – Participating in the discussion and vote on the matter

Councillor A needs to give priority consideration to whether she could be committing an offence, rather than whether the council has a quorum. Participating in the discussion and vote on the matter is only advisable if Councillor A has determined that there is neither a pecuniary interest nor a non-pecuniary conflict of interest. If there were a conflict of interest or pecuniary interest, participating in the discussion or vote to make up a quorum would leave Councillor A open to a complaint that she has breached her legislative obligations.

More detailed information on pecuniary and non-pecuniary interests and your obligations is provided on the following webpages: