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Local Government (Councillor Conduct) and Other Legislation Amendment Act

The Local Government (Councillor Conduct) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2023 was passed by the Queensland Parliament on 15 November 2023 and received assent on 22 November 2023. Its provisions commenced on 22 November 2023.

The Act amends the Local Government Act 2009 to make several amendments to the councillor conduct complaints system to enhance its efficiency and effectiveness.

Background

The current councillor conduct complaints system was introduced in 2018 to provide a simpler, more streamlined councillor conduct complaints system for making, investigating and determining complaints about councillor conduct in Queensland. As part of these reforms the Office of the Independent Assessor (OIA) was established to investigate all complaints and information about councillor conduct before deciding how it should be dealt with.

On 25 October 2021, the then Deputy Premier, Minister for State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning and Minister Assisting the Premier on Olympics Infrastructure wrote to the Legislative Assembly’s State Development and Regional Industries Committee (SDRIC) requesting it conduct a review into the functions of the IA in accordance with SDRIC’s general oversight responsibilities for the IA.

On 14 October 2022, SDRIC tabled Report No. 28 of the 57th Parliament - Inquiry into the Independent Assessor and councillor conduct complaints system (the Councillor Conduct Report) in the Legislative Assembly. The Councillor Conduct Report made 40 recommendations to improve the councillor conduct complaints system in Queensland. On 12 January 2023, the Government’s response to the Councillor Conduct Report was tabled in the Legislative Assembly, supporting or supporting in-principle all 40 recommendations.

The Act implements SDRIC’s recommendations that required a legislative response as well as making additional changes to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the councillor conduct complaints system generally.

Consultation

SDRIC undertook several public hearings during their inquiry into the councillor conduct complaints system, with four public sessions in Brisbane, and eight in regional Queensland.

Additionally, the Department of State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning undertook consultation with key stakeholders during the development of the legislation, including the Local Government Association of Queensland, Local Government Managers Australia, the Office of the Independent Assessor, the Crime and Corruption Commission, and the Queensland Law Society.

Major reforms made by the Act

The Act makes several reforms to the councillor conduct complaints system, including to:

  • introduce a preliminary assessment process that the IA must undertake for all complaints, notices, and referrals to establish clear statutory parameters for when the IA should take further action for conduct matters. This process will enhance the scope for insubstantial conduct matters to be ‘closed out’ as early as possible
  • establish statutory limitation periods for when complaints, notices, or referrals must be made to the IA
  • replace the term ‘inappropriate conduct’ with ‘conduct breach’
  • limit the application of the complaints system to councillors’ conduct in their official capacity, and to sitting councillors (except where their conduct is suspected corrupt conduct)
  • introduce a scheme to declare persons vexatious complainants
  • clarify councillor conflict-of-interest arrangements
  • make amendments to the constitution and membership of the Councillor Conduct Tribunal
  • increase mandatory reporting by the IA and councils, and requires the publication of councils’ investigation reports for conduct matters.

Further, the Act introduces a scheme for mandatory training for councillors. Councillors that do not complete mandatory training may be suspended without pay or dismissed from office.

The Act also provides the Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ) with a discretion to determine which election costs are passed on to local governments. This replaces the current arrangement where the ECQ is required to recover election costs from local governments in full.

Finally, the Act reforms the publication requirements for notices and advertising to reflect contemporary methods of communication. The Act will replace print newspaper advertising requirements with more appropriate alternatives, including on-line publication.

More information

The department will continue to implement a range of measures to complement and strengthen the implementation of the reforms in the Act. It is also progressively updating relevant resources available on LG Central and the website to ensure alignment with the Act and to assist you.

For more information, please contact the appropriate Local Government Division regional office.

Key resources

Last updated: 11 Jul 2024