Transcript: Belcarra stage 2 local government reforms
Welcome to today’s podcast about the changes coming into effect in relation to the most recent Bill passed through Queensland Parliament, which was in relation to the latest rolling reforms for local government.
My name is Warwick Agnew, Director-General of the Department of Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs.
In this podcast you’ll hear a summary of the changes included specifically in the Local Government Electoral (Implementing Stage 2 of Belcarra) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019, which was debated and passed by Parliament on 16 October 2019.
This Bill included changes which affect both local government elections and the day-to-day business of councils and councillors performing their duties.
I also encourage you to view the comprehensive information including fact sheets, guidelines and other resources available in the resources section of the department’s website. You can find this at www.dlgrma.qld.gov.au.
The government’s local government reforms are guided by four key principles, these being integrity, transparency, diversity and consistency.
The overarching policy objectives are:
- one, to implement the government's policy in relation to a number of remaining recommendations of the CCC Belcarra report
- two, to implement the Government's response to the Soorley report and
- three, to implement some other significant reforms which are in line with the principles of diversity, transparency, integrity and consistency in the local government system, decision making and local government elections.
For those of you who have been involved throughout the process, we thank you very much for your input and feedback, and we also look forward to continuing to work with you all throughout the ongoing reform process.
It’s Bronwyn Blagoev and Tim Dunne here from the Department of Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs.
BRONWYN: As you are all aware, the Belcarra Stage 2 Bill passed through the legislative assembly on 16 October 2019. With that in mid, now is the time for councillors and candidates to be aware of ‘What does this mean?’ for them.
Tim, as we heard from Warwick, the principles behind the Bill included concepts such as transparency and accountability. One of the key reforms is to require candidates to have a dedicated bank account. What do we mean by the term ‘dedicated bank account’?
TIM: A dedicated bank account is one account in which all expenditure and income associated with your election campaign goes into.
BRONWYN: So what if I have an existing bank account and I create a sub-account? Is that sufficient?
TIM: Yes, as long as the sub-account is not used for any other purposes, that should be sufficient for your dedicated bank account.
BRONWYN: Ok, and what is the joint account is in a joint name of say myself and another person? Is that okay?
TIM: Yes, as long as that sub-account isn’t used for any other purpose, it should be fine. Candidates also need to be mindful that they cannot use credit cards to pay things out of their dedicated account.
BRONWYN: But Tim, a debit card as opposed to a credit card is okay?
TIM: Yes, a debit card that’s linked to the dedicated account is fine.
BRONWYN: Candidates also need to be aware that there are real-time disclosure requirements in relation to electoral donations and also electoral expenditure. Where candidates receive an electoral donation, loan or they expend funds of $500 or more, they must disclose that to ECQ within seven days. And during the last 7 days of an election, donations must be disclosed within 24 hours.
Candidates are also under obligations to provide information to donors about the donor’s own disclosure requirements. Donors are also required to advise candidates of the true source of donations.
TIM: Bronwyn, we field questions about what a gift is for these purposes. A gift is the provision of property or a service for no consideration, or inadequate consideration. For example, the printing of flyers for free, or the provision of materials to make signs for less than the market value, or a cash donation.
BRONWYN: Tim, it’s also really important that candidates realise that a person can be a candidate well before they officially nominate. All electoral gifts worth $500 or more in total must be disclosed to ECQ within seven business days of receiving the gift, from the day that the person indicates their intention to be a candidate.
So, a person can indicate their intention to be a candidate in a number of ways. Obviously, they can nominate as a candidate, but they may also publicly announce their candidature. They may also otherwise indicate that they’re a candidate, for example by receiving a gift for the purpose of an election, or expending money for the purpose of an election. Candidate will need to do a catch-up disclosure also, be really careful of that in January, for gifts received and expenditure incurred before that date.
TIM: Bronwyn, there are also requirements on candidates to complete a summary return after an election. Due to the extent of the disclosure requirements upon candidates, candidates are strongly urged to seek further information regarding their obligations from either the Electoral Commission of Queensland or from the department.
BRONWYN: One of the key changes in the Belcarra Stage 2 Bill is also about groups. A person now cannot engage in what we call group campaign activity unless the candidate is registered as part of a group of candidates or is an endorsed candidate of a political party. Tim, what does that mean?
TIM: Bronwyn, group campaign activities include such things as sharing resources, having common election policies, common branding on material or joint advertising. So, for example, a group of five councillors sharing a billboard may well amount to a group-like activity. Those five councillors must be registered as a group of candidates before they would publish that billboard. If candidates have any concerns about engaging in group-like behaviour they should contact the Electoral Commission of Queensland for further advice.
BRONWYN: Tim, the Belcarra Stage two Bill talks about mandatory training for all candidates. Does that include sitting councillors, and also what is the training?
TIM: Yes, all candidates, even sitting councillors, must undertake the mandatory training. The training only takes approximately an hour to complete. It’s online and contains videos of sitting councillors about what it’s like to be a councillor. The intention is that the training provides people with a better understanding of what it means to be a councillor and the obligations and responsibilities of councillors and candidates throughout their campaigns.
BRONWYN: Tim, you refer to online training. Will there be also face-to-face training offered?
TIM: Alternative options to the online training course are being developed for those areas where candidates cannot access or use the course online, including face-to-face training in some cases. Further information will be made available on the department’s local government reforms web page. You can also register to receive updates about the training on that same website. It’s expected that the training will be available from the end of October 2019.
BRONWYN. Thanks Tim. The department has also prepared a range of guidance and training materials for councillors to ensure that they’re well informed about these significant changes.
Councillors have access to fact sheets, webinars and other online resources to assist with their understanding. In particularly look out for the two-page fact sheet that provides an overall summary of the reforms, and if you would like more detailed information we have prepared a document similar in format to that recently prepared outlining each of the changes. We recommend that you also visit the department’s website to keep abreast of these changes and when additional supporting material is published. For example, there’s a fact sheet and a checklist on ‘Are you ready for 2020?’ covering election requirements.
Thanks again for listening.
Last updated: Friday, Dec 4, 2020