On 3 December 2018 new legislation became effective and new requirements were introduced regarding the complaints process for councillor conduct. The new requirements affect all local governments in Queensland. To comply with the legislation Somerset Regional Council has adopted:
- Revised Standing Orders for all Council meetings,
- Meeting Procedures which set out: the actions to be taken by the Mayor during a Council meeting when a Councillor’s behaviour is inappropriate, when a Council meeting may be closed and how Councillors can declare conflicts of interest and material personal interests,
- an Investigations Policy which sets out the processes to be followed where a complaint against a Councillor has been made or information has been uncovered and that complaint is being investigated by the Mayor, a Conduct Tribunal, the Independent Assessor or the Crime and Corruption Commission.
The Minister for Local Government and the Department introduced the new Legislation and requirements to raise the standards that govern the behaviour of Councillors to restore confidence in Councillors serving their communities and local government decision making across Queensland generally.
The minister and the department believe these reforms will strengthen transparency, accountability and integrity of local government in Queensland. The Queensland government is committed to supporting local government by ensuring that public confidence and accountability is restored.
Key changes include:
- A uniform mandatory Code of Conduct for Councillors in Queensland
- Model meeting procedures for meeting behaviour
- Amendment of the publicly available councillor conduct register
- Creation of the Office of the Independent Assessor
- New annual report requirements.
The Queensland Government is committed to ensuring councils are aware of these changes and their impacts.
Code of Conduct
The Code of Conduct for Councillors in Queensland sets out the standards of behaviour expected of councillors and mayors when carrying out their roles, responsibilities and obligations as elected representatives for their communities.
Introducing a new uniform Code of Conduct will assist in efficiently making all councillors aware of their obligations around the three ‘R’s – responsibilities, respect and reputation.
The three ‘R’s ensure:
- that councillors carry out responsibilities conscientiously and in the best interests of the council and the community;
- they treat people in a reasonable, just, respectful and non-discriminatory way;
- their conduct does not reflect adversely on the reputation of the council.
The Code of Conduct for councillors is backed by tougher penalties for those who breach the code, including complaints that fall into corrupt conduct, misconduct, inappropriate conduct and a new category of unsuitable meeting conduct.
All councillors must declare that they will abide by this Code of Conduct when they are elected and the Code of Conduct will apply to all councils.
To understand types of Councillor Conduct Complaints and what can be done about that complaint please refer to the Queensland Government Office of the Independent Assessor.
Somerset Regional Council has also developed a Councillor Conduct Register to record and disclose each Councillor conduct breach where that breach has included: unsuitable meeting conduct, inappropriate conduct or misconduct. The breach will normally be the subject of a complaint against a Councillor. The breach will be referred to the Mayor, a Tribunal, the Independent Assessor or the Crime and Corruption Commission. The decision made and the reason for making the decision will also be recorded in the register. If the complaint has been made against a Councillor regarding an alleged breach and the matter has been investigated and dismissed this will also be recorded in the register. The current updated version of the register can be found here.