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The Department of Premier and Cabinet's Local Government Division has prepared a draft Local Government Amendment (Code of Conduct) Bill 2014.
The Bill proposes amendments to the Local Government Act 1993 to provide:
The new code of conduct framework has been developed in consultation with local government to provide a more rigorous, efficient and streamlined process for the making and determination of code of conduct complaints.
The draft Bill removes the need for councils to establish code of conduct panels and replaces these with a single independent panel made up of two members, drawn from a pool of appropriately skilled people appointed by the Minister for Planning and Local Government.
All complaints will undergo an initial assessment by the panel to ensure that the complaint is a relevant code of conduct complaint, and is not a complaint that could be dealt with by a more appropriate authority or investigation body, for example the Director of Local Government. The panel will also be provided with the power to dismiss a complaint that is considered frivolous or vexatious.
The panel will have greater flexibility in the way that it can decide to conduct the investigation and determination of a complaint. The panel may hold a hearing to determine the matter, or decide that a matter can be determined upon written submissions and written evidence.
In addition to the current sanctions, the panel will have the additional sanction of suspending a councillor from office for up to one month. The Bill also provides that a councillor who fails to comply with a sanction imposed by the panel may face a fine of up to 50 penalty units.
The office of a councillor will be automatically vacated if the councillor is found to have breached the council's code of conduct three times in a term of office.
The Bill allows a council to decide whether or not it holds an annual general meeting (AGM).
If a council decides that it will not hold an AGM, then the council must still invite submissions on its annual report and discuss the submissions in an open session of an ordinary council meeting.
Local government has requested this change because of the costly nature of AGMs, the generally poor public attendance at AGMs and the fact that councils have alternative ways of communicating their annual reports to the community.
Interested persons are invited to provide written submissions to the Department of Premier and Cabinet's Local Government Division either by email to email@example.com or by mail to:
Consultation on the draft Bill closes on Tuesday 28 October 2014.