Main Menu

WP_Query Object
(
    [query] => Array
        (
            [category_name] => law
        )

    [query_vars] => Array
        (
            [category_name] => law
            [error] => 
            [m] => 
            [p] => 0
            [post_parent] => 
            [subpost] => 
            [subpost_id] => 
            [attachment] => 
            [attachment_id] => 0
            [name] => 
            [static] => 
            [pagename] => 
            [page_id] => 0
            [second] => 
            [minute] => 
            [hour] => 
            [day] => 0
            [monthnum] => 0
            [year] => 0
            [w] => 0
            [tag] => 
            [cat] => 8236
            [tag_id] => 
            [author] => 
            [author_name] => 
            [feed] => 
            [tb] => 
            [paged] => 0
            [meta_key] => 
            [meta_value] => 
            [preview] => 
            [s] => 
            [sentence] => 
            [title] => 
            [fields] => 
            [menu_order] => 
            [embed] => 
            [category__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [category__not_in] => Array
                (
                    [0] => 22371
                )

            [category__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [post__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_name__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag_slug__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag_slug__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_parent__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_parent__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [author__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [author__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_type] => Array
                (
                    [post] => post
                    [page] => page
                    [attachment] => attachment
                    [revision] => revision
                    [nav_menu_item] => nav_menu_item
                    [custom_css] => custom_css
                    [customize_changeset] => customize_changeset
                    [oembed_cache] => oembed_cache
                    [user_request] => user_request
                    [sponsoredcontent] => sponsoredcontent
                    [ai1ec_event] => ai1ec_event
                    [guest-author] => guest-author
                    [ngg_album] => ngg_album
                    [ngg_gallery] => ngg_gallery
                    [ngg_pictures] => ngg_pictures
                    [lightbox_library] => lightbox_library
                    [plugin_filter] => plugin_filter
                    [plugin_group] => plugin_group
                    [ssp_slider] => ssp_slider
                    [slide] => slide
                    [portfolio] => portfolio
                    [displayed_gallery] => displayed_gallery
                    [display_type] => display_type
                    [gal_display_source] => gal_display_source
                )

            [ignore_sticky_posts] => 
            [suppress_filters] => 
            [cache_results] => 1
            [update_post_term_cache] => 1
            [lazy_load_term_meta] => 1
            [update_post_meta_cache] => 1
            [posts_per_page] => 14
            [nopaging] => 
            [comments_per_page] => 50
            [no_found_rows] => 
            [order] => DESC
        )

    [tax_query] => WP_Tax_Query Object
        (
            [queries] => Array
                (
                    [0] => Array
                        (
                            [taxonomy] => category
                            [terms] => Array
                                (
                                    [0] => law
                                )

                            [field] => slug
                            [operator] => IN
                            [include_children] => 1
                        )

                    [1] => Array
                        (
                            [taxonomy] => category
                            [terms] => Array
                                (
                                    [0] => 22371
                                )

                            [field] => term_id
                            [operator] => NOT IN
                            [include_children] => 
                        )

                )

            [relation] => AND
            [table_aliases:protected] => Array
                (
                    [0] => wp_term_relationships
                )

            [queried_terms] => Array
                (
                    [category] => Array
                        (
                            [terms] => Array
                                (
                                    [0] => law
                                )

                            [field] => slug
                        )

                )

            [primary_table] => wp_posts
            [primary_id_column] => ID
        )

    [meta_query] => WP_Meta_Query Object
        (
            [queries] => Array
                (
                )

            [relation] => 
            [meta_table] => 
            [meta_id_column] => 
            [primary_table] => 
            [primary_id_column] => 
            [table_aliases:protected] => Array
                (
                )

            [clauses:protected] => Array
                (
                )

            [has_or_relation:protected] => 
        )

    [date_query] => 
    [queried_object] => WP_Term Object
        (
            [term_id] => 8236
            [name] => Law
            [slug] => law
            [term_group] => 0
            [term_taxonomy_id] => 8236
            [taxonomy] => category
            [description] => 
            [parent] => 0
            [count] => 458
            [filter] => raw
            [cat_ID] => 8236
            [category_count] => 458
            [category_description] => 
            [cat_name] => Law
            [category_nicename] => law
            [category_parent] => 0
        )

    [queried_object_id] => 8236
    [request] => SELECT SQL_CALC_FOUND_ROWS  wp_posts.ID FROM wp_posts  LEFT JOIN wp_term_relationships ON (wp_posts.ID = wp_term_relationships.object_id) WHERE 1=1  AND ( 
  wp_term_relationships.term_taxonomy_id IN (8236) 
  AND 
  wp_posts.ID NOT IN (
				SELECT object_id
				FROM wp_term_relationships
				WHERE term_taxonomy_id IN (22364)
			)
) AND wp_posts.post_type IN ('post', 'page', 'attachment', 'revision', 'nav_menu_item', 'custom_css', 'customize_changeset', 'oembed_cache', 'user_request', 'sponsoredcontent', 'ai1ec_event', 'guest-author', 'ngg_album', 'ngg_gallery', 'ngg_pictures', 'lightbox_library', 'plugin_filter', 'plugin_group', 'ssp_slider', 'slide', 'portfolio', 'displayed_gallery', 'display_type', 'gal_display_source') AND (wp_posts.post_status = 'publish') GROUP BY wp_posts.ID ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC LIMIT 0, 14
    [posts] => Array
        (
            [0] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 30133
                    [post_author] => 675
                    [post_date] => 2018-05-01 11:24:27
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-05-01 01:24:27
                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_30134" align="aligncenter" width="584"] Queensland Parliament to debate local government laws in coming weeks.[/caption]

Queensland’s councils have put forward tighter transparency regulations beyond those proposed by the state's corruption commission.    

The suspension of councillors charged with an indictable offence, the mandatory registration of candidate’s interests pre-election and registration of donations and gifts for two terms are among reforms proposed by Queensland’s local governments.

The proposed measures, which also include mandatory pre-election briefings, go beyond recommendations for tackling council misconduct currently being considered by State Government.

At a meeting last week 16 members of the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ)’s policy executive voted for more stringent measures on misconduct to discourage corruption within councils.

LGAQ chief Greg Hallam said that while the recommendations in the state’s Crime and Corruption Commission’s Operation Belcarra report were a “good start” they were not stringent enough.

“We believe the CCC didn’t go as far as they might have in some areas and we’ve gone well beyond in some respects," he told Government News.

Mr Hallam said that the recommendations were based on areas identified as a real concern by the LGAQ through polling and research. 

“Views and perceptions are one thing, and the chairman of the CCC talks a lot about that, but we’re trying to deal with the reality,” he said.

Last October the Queensland Government said it endorsed all of Operation Belcarra report's recommendations, supporting some in full and others in principle.

In the coming weeks the Queensland Parliament will debate a bill enacting some of the Belcarra recommendations, after a parliamentary committee tabled its report last week

Pre-election conflict reporting

Under the recommendations in Operation Belcarra, the Electoral Commission of Queensland would be obliged to publish all declarations of interest on its website for nominated candidates, but not prospective candidates. The LGAQ has proposed a compulsory register of interests, made public on a website, for all prospective candidates pre-election. “There’s a perception that people don’t know the true nature of the candidacy of the people running, so we’ve said as a prerequisite for running all candidates must have a register of interest made public on a website,” Mr Hallam said. The LGAQ has also recommended that campaign expenditure limits would be set at $2 per enrolled voter for mayoral elections and $1 for councillor elections. The peak wants the provision of compulsory pre-election training to ensure that prospective councillors’ or mayors’ responsibilities and powers are clear at the outset. “Unfortunately we have people who put their hand up, who don’t understand the system … and then fight the system for the balance of their term or often times they literally resign frustrated with the system,” Mr Hallam said. The peak has proposed the introduction of a statutory provision to stand down councilors charged with an indictable offence at full remuneration until proven guilty to ensure that the presumption of innocence is safeguarded. A community awareness campaign on local government’s planning role should be rolled out to clarify the role of council in assessing development applications, LGAQ said.

Key findings: Operation Belcarra                                      

The CCC launched Operation Belcarra in March last year to investigate complaints that the conduct of candidates across several Queensland councils in 2016 amounted to corrupt conduct. Among these complaints were that candidates had operated as undeclared groups, lodged false electoral disclosure returns and failed to operate a dedicated bank account during this disclosure period. Inquiry chairperson, Alan MacSporran QC, said the report revealed the systematic extent of corruption within government:
“The recurring nature of these issues, despite increased regulation and oversight of local government, elections and political donations over time, highlights their inherent potential to cause concerns about corruption.”
The investigation recommended a number of changes including a ban on developer donations, legislation requiring real-time disclosure of electoral expenditure and a declaration of interests by all candidates nominated including new interests and the publishing of these interests on the ECQ website. It also called for bans on gifts seven days before elections and improved mechanisms to address conflict of interests in council decisions.
Comment below to have your say on this story.
If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at editorial@governmentnews.com.au.  
Sign up to the Government News newsletter.
[post_title] => Calls for crackdown on local government misconduct [post_excerpt] => Queensland’s councils have put forward tighter transparency regulations beyond those proposed by the state's corruption commission.    [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => calls-for-crackdown-on-local-government-misconduct [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-05-01 11:43:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-05-01 01:43:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=30133 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 29245 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-02-26 16:20:32 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-26 05:20:32 [post_content] =>

The NSW Government will provide an exemption to lockout requirements at venues in the Oxford St area for the 40th Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade on the weekend of 3-4 March. Minister for Racing Paul Toole said the one-off exemption means patrons will be able to be admitted to venues in the area beyond the usual 1:30am or 2:00am restrictions. It follows arrangements for other major events, like the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross lockout exemption on New Year’s Eve, and the extension of Sunday night trading for certain hotels and registered clubs across NSW for the NRL Grand Final. Sydney’s lockout laws have been extremely controversial since they were introduced three years ago in response to alcohol fuelled violence in some inner-city venues and on city streets, Opponents say they have robbed Sudney of much of its character, while supporters says it has decreased crime. Under the Mardo Gras exemption, venues will still need to cease serving alcohol at their normal times of 3:00am on the morning of Sunday 4 March 4, or 3:30am for venues with live entertainment extensions, and comply with their other licence conditions. “The NSW Government is pleased to relax the lockout laws as part of its support for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade,” Mr Toole said. “It’s an internationally-renowned event that attracts visitors from all over the world and injects around $40 million into the NSW economy each year. “Relaxing the requirements will give people more time to make their way to surrounding venues and events when the parade finishes.” Mr Toole said NSW Police and Liquor and Gaming NSW inspectors will be present in the Oxford Street, Kings Cross and Sydney CBD precincts to ensure venues are providing a safe environment for people to celebrate. The exemption comes after pressure from gay rights activist and Sydney City Councillor Christine Forster (Tony Abbott’s sister) and the Keep Sydney Open group, who asked Premier Gladys Berejiklian for rule change as “a special gesture of goodwill to mark this year’s 40th anniversary of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras celebrations.” Keep Sydney Open wrote on Facebook that “it is entirely appropriate that the lockouts be lifted on the night of the parade,” pointing out that The State Government has previously lifted lockouts during international sporting events and New Year’s Eve for both national significance and safety reasons.   [post_title] => Lockout exemption for Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => lockout-exemption-gay-lesbian-mardi-gras [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-26 16:20:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-26 05:20:32 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=29245 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 29232 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-02-22 14:09:14 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-22 03:09:14 [post_content] =>

A law has been introduced in the Queensland Parliament which retrospectively validates council rates that may have been improperly issued. The new Local Government Legislation (Validation of Rates and Charges) Amendment Bill 2018 has been formulated as a response to a Queensland Supreme Court ruling in November 2017. That ruling, known as the Linville case, meant that many rates and charges levied local government authorities in Queensland in recent years could be found to be invalid. The case came to court when investment company Linville Holdings was taken to court by Fraser Coast Regional Council for unpaid rates. Linville argued that the rates were invalid because the council had failed to pass separate resolutions each year validating its rates and charges. Linville won the case. The ruling, from Supreme Court Justice David Jackson, called into question the validity of many separate rates and charges levied by councils all over Queensland. Brisbane paper The Courier-Mail at the time identified Gold Coast, Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Moreton Bay, Townsville and Cairns as councils that had similarly failed to pass separate resolutions during annual budget meetings, and that potentially all Queensland councils could be affected. The Queensland Government acted very quickly to enact new legislation which would effectively invalidate the court’s ruling. They new bill will pass quickly into law – Queensland is the only state in Australia with no upper house of Parliament. The Bill’s Explanatory Notes explain in detail what the Government believes to be the rationale for the legislation, and contains a justification for retrospectivity, basically “the need to provide financial surety to local governments and ratepayers.” Brent Lillywhite and Samuel Volling from legal firm Corrs Chamber Westgarth have written an overview of the legislation. They say that it was introduced because the Queensland Government recognised the potentially serious implications of the Linville ruling. “The Bill would insert new sections into the Local Government Act and the City of Brisbane Act with the effect, in summary, that any rate or charge levied (and anything done in relation to the rate or charge e.g. steps to recover the charge) for a financial year up to and including the year ending 30 June 2018 is not invalidated merely because of a failure to make a specific resolution for the rate or charge. “In so doing, the Bill would retrospectively validate rates or charges that, in light of the Linville case, would otherwise be invalid.” But they say councils should still be wary. “The Bill would only apply to rates or charges up to and including the financial year ending 30 June 2018. For future financial years, local governments will need to make specific resolutions levying rates and charges, in line with the Supreme Court’s approach in Linville. “Second, the Bill would only validate rates or charges that were invalid solely because of the failure to make a specific resolution. If a rate or charge would have also been invalid for another reason, the Bill will not validate it.”   [post_title] => New retrospective Queensland law validates council rates [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => new-retrospective-queensland-law-validates-council-rates [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-27 09:03:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-26 22:03:32 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=29232 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 29219 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-02-22 11:16:24 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-22 00:16:24 [post_content] =>

Australia rates comparatively well on international corruption scales, but it is getting worse. The annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) from Transparency International rates 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and business people. It uses a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean. The recently released 2017 edition found that more than two-thirds of countries score below 50, with an average score of 43. “Unfortunately, compared to recent years, this poor performance is nothing new,” says the report. The CPI singles out Australia as a country whose performance has steadily decline since 2012. It says most countries, including Australia, are making little or no progress in ending corruption. Australia’s score this year is 77, which places it at the 16th least corrupt country out of the 190 surveyed. Last year it was 13th. Its score declined from 79 to 77 points, continuing a trend in recent years. It does better than the US or Japan, but ranks below the UK, Canada and the Nordic countries. Least corrupt country is New Zealand, with a score of 89. Australia’s declining performance comes as the government cracks down on access to information and amid continued publicity about entitlement rorting by politicians, opaque political donations laws, inappropriate behaviour by lobbyists, and companies’ creative use of Australia’s taxation laws. Just a month ago Australia’s Public Service Commission released a report that says that 5 percent of APS survey respondents said they had witnessed another employee engaging in behaviour they considered to be corrupt, a number that had doubled in three years. The report makes a number of recommendations, most of which are relevant to Australia:
  • Governments and businesses must do more to encourage free speech, independent media, political dissent and an open and engaged civil society.
  • Governments should minimise regulations on media, including traditional and new media, and ensure that journalists can work without fear of repression or violence. In addition, international donors should consider press freedom relevant to development aid or access to international organisations.
  • Civil society and governments should promote laws that focus on access to information. This access helps enhance transparency and accountability while reducing opportunities for corruption. It is important, however, for governments to not only invest in an appropriate legal framework for such laws, but also commit to their implementation.
  • Activists and governments should take advantage of the momentum generated by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to advocate and push for reforms at the national and global level. Specifically, governments must ensure access to information and the protection of fundamental freedoms and align these to international agreements and best practices.
  • Governments and businesses should proactively disclose relevant public interest information in open data formats. Proactive disclosure of relevant data, including government budgets, company ownership, public procurement and political party finances allows journalists, civil society and affected communities to identify patterns of corrupt conduct more efficiently.
The CPI report can be found here. [post_title] => Australia becoming more corrupt, shows international index [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => australia-becoming-corrupt-shows-international-index [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-22 13:04:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-22 02:04:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=29219 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 29213 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-02-22 10:11:34 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-21 23:11:34 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_29214" align="alignnone" width="289"] Timothy Pilgrim, retired public servant[/caption] The world is very different now, but many of us don’t know it. From 22 February 2018 Australia has a new Notifiable Data Breaches (NDB) regimen. Under the laws, passed in 2017 as the Privacy Amendment (Notifiable Data Breaches) Act, companies and government agencies have to tell people  if lost or stolen data “is likely to result in serious harm to any individuals whose personal information is involved in the breach.” They must make this notification “as soon as practicable.” Previously there was no obligation to do so at all, and many serious breaches were only reported years after they occurred. The laws were years in the making, after first being proposed by the Australian Law Reform Commission in 2008. But despite nearly a decade of public debate, recent research shows that most Australian businesses believe they are not prepared for the new scheme (HP Australia IT Security Study, February 2018). The legislation has been widely criticised as being too vague (‘as soon as practicable’, ‘serious harm’), and for excluding organisations with an annual turnover of less then $3 million. They will be overseen by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC). But Commissioner Tim Pilgrim will not be around to do that overseeing. He has resigned, just two days before the new rules came into effect. He will stay on for another month, but it will be his successor who will have to deal with the potentially massive consequences of the new data retention regime. Mr Pilgrim’s resignation comes as no surprise. He hasn’t said a lot about why is leaving, but a reasonable reading of the situation would be that he’s had enough. He has been Privacy Commissioner since 2010, during which time his office has been continually downgraded. A career public servant, he is now in his late 50s and eligible for a comfortable retirement. The introduction of the new law is as good a time to go as any. Pilgrim’s progress has been steady, if unspectacular. He was appointed Privacy Commissioner in July 2010, after being Deputy Commissioner since 1998. Before that we worked in a number of agencies, including the ATO. He was also appointed Australian Information Commissioner in October 2016, after acting in the role since the Privacy Commission was made part of the OAIC in 2010. It has been a struggle since then. The ill-fated Abbott budget of 2014 attempted to abolish the OAIC altogether. That move was blocked in the Senate, but the Government responded by starving it of funds to the extent that it was increasingly difficult for Mr Pilgrim to do his work. That did not stop new Attorney-General Christian Porter for heaping praise on Mr Pilgrim, saying he had done an outstanding job. “Mr Pilgrim built a strong reputation, both within government and the wider community, with his thoughtful and considered approach to privacy and information regulation. He has worked tirelessly to help Australia deal with global privacy challenges, particularly through building closer relationships with other privacy regulators domestically and internationally. “Mr Pilgrim oversaw the implementation of the amendments to Australia's Privacy Act in 2014, the most significant reforms since the Privacy Act 1988 was extended to the private sector in 2000. He was awarded a Public Service Medal in 2015 in recognition of his outstanding work overseeing these reforms.” One wonders just how much more of an outstanding job Mr Pilgrim would have been able to do if the government had not hobbled him. Mr Porter said a “merit-based selection process” was now underway to find Mr Pilgrim's replacement. It will be interesting to see how long it takes – this Government has a habit of taking a long time to appoint people to positions it has tried to abolish.     [post_title] => Data notification law starts today – as Privacy Commissioner says goodbye [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => data-retention-law-starts-today-privacy-commissioner-says-goodbye [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-22 11:07:09 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-22 00:07:09 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=29213 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 29176 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-02-19 09:46:36 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-18 22:46:36 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_29177" align="alignnone" width="296"] We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore ...[/caption] They’re mad as hell down Tumbarumba way. The Snowy Mountains town best known for John O’Brien’s wonderful poem ‘Up at Tumba-bloody-rumba shootin’ kanga-bloody-roos’ has become the touchstone for renewed opposition to the NSW Government’s disastrous forced council amalgamation strategy. In May 2016 the local council was merged with neighbouring Tumut Shure to form Snowy Valleys Council. Since then many local residents have been campaigning to reverse the merger. The issue is not going away. If anything, the voices for a demerger are getting stronger. Those advocating for the restitution of Tumbarumba Shire have joined the Save Our Councils Coalition, a group representing councils that have – successfully and unsuccessfully – resisted mergers in NSW. Its vociferous campaigning ensures that council mergers and demergers will remain a significant issue at the next NSW state election, due in a little over a year on 23 March 2019. Last week Tumbarumba came to town. It was Valentine’s Day, but there was little love for the NSW Government. A vocal band of Tumbarumba residents, dressed in orange, held a noisy protest outside State Parliament. They were addressed by representatives of all political parties represented in the NSW State Parliament except the governing Liberal-National Coaltion. Dr Neil Hamilton from the Save Tumbarumba Shire group said: “We are here today to initiate an inquiry into the merger process that will hopefully get our council back. This forced merger is bitterly opposed by the community. It is also strongly opposed by Save Our Councils Coalition and many communities across NSW.” The delegation left with the NSW Minister for Local Government a petition signed by 700 residents – more than a quarter of the adult population – to re-instate Tumbarumba Shire on its old boundaries, bordered by the Murray River to the west and the Snowy Mountains to the east. Since the forced merger the Tumbarumba community has held many protests, including a candlelight march, and conducted an optional citizen plebiscite asking residents whether they wanted to reverse the merger, which returned a 93 percent ‘yes’ vote. The opponents of the merger point out that Tumbarumba Council, despite its small size (just 3,500 residents), was the second best 'fit for the future' council in NSW and was not recommended for a merger in an inquiry held after the Government’s initial proposal. “The Baird/Berejiklian Government simply went ahead and merged Tumbarumba anyway,” said Dr Hamilton. “The merger was a disgraceful and unforgiveable act.” Addressing the protest, NSW Greens’ David Shoebridge said:”We are here today in solidarity with the people of Tumbarumba and from shires and councils around the state who are demanding they get their councils back. “If Gladys Berejiklian thinks that the issues of forced council mergers are going away, she is going to have a hell of a fright in 12 months’ time when she is told she will be out of office if she hasn't given them their councils back.” Tumbarumba is in the state electorate of Albury, nominally a safe Liberal Party seat. But the Coalition vote in the last two NSW election has been at historic highs since the scandal-ridden Labor Government was defeated in 2011, and the Government is no certainty to be returned in the March 2019 poll. “What happens in local communities should be a decision for local people. Labor’s policy is that if communities choose to demerge, that is a decision for them and they should be allowed to demerge,” said Labor’s Peter Primrose, addressing the protest. “Gladys Berejiklian has not yet fixed the problem of forced amalgamations,” said Robert Brown from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party. “There has to be an opportunity for communities to decide if they wish to demerge. We will continue to fight. We will support legislation for a plebiscite to enable you to have your say.” His party scored a surprise win over the incumbent National Party in the 2016 Orange by-election dominated by dissatisfaction with Government policies. It saw one the largest swings against a government in Australian political history. Fred Nile from the Christian Democrats said that his party had always been against forced council amalgamations. “We call upon Gladys Berejiklian today to agree to de-amalgamate Tumbarumba and also Guyra.” (Guyra was forcibly amalgamated into the new Armidale Regional Council at the same time as the Tumbarumba-Tumut merger). “Every political party except the Liberal and National Parties are strongly against forced council mergers, and is strongly for giving communities whose councils were forcibly merged a plebiscite to allow them to de-merge,” said Dr Hamilton. “Unless the Government allows communities who have lost their council this opportunity to demerge, it is highly likely that the Liberal-National Party will be thrown out at the next state election.” ‘But as for me, I'm here to say the interesting piece of news Was up at Tumba-bloody-rumba, shootin' kanga-bloody-roos’. [post_title] => Tumbarumba amalgamation protests intensify [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => tumbarumba-amalgamation-protests-intensify [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-19 15:31:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-19 04:31:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=29176 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 29155 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-02-15 14:37:39 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-15 03:37:39 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_29157" align="alignnone" width="300"] Walter van der Merwe - Electoral Commissioner no longer[/caption] Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ) head Walter van der Merwe has resigned, two days after being suspended for allegations of serious misconduct. Current ECQ Assistant Electoral Commissioner Dermot Tiernan will be Acting Electoral Commissioner. In a short statement, Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said Mr van der Merwe “has delivered his resignation to the Governor this morning … Acting Electoral Commissioner arrangements are already in place and a recruitment process will begin shortly. In the meantime, the allegations against Mr van der Merwe will be investigated to finalise the issues raised.” Mr van der Merwe was suspended from duties by the Queensland Government on 13 February after Ms D’Ath said there were “serious allegations” against him “which could amount to misbehaviour under Section 25 of the Electoral Act 1992.” She was not any more specific than that, other than to say that they did not amount to inappropriate interference in the outcome of elections. In 2017 Mr van der Merwe was the first witness to be called before the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission’s (CCC) Operation Belcarra, initiated after serious concerns about corruption in the 2016 Queensland local government elections. He said then that there were a significantly higher number of complaints about that election than in previous elections, but that he did not know why that was the case. He said the ECQ lacked the resources to properly investigate all allegations. A Parliamentary Inquiry into the elections, chaired by former Brisbane Lord Mayor Jim Soorley, handed down a report in June 2017 which was extremely critical of the ECQ. “Throughout the inquiry’s process of reviewing the ECQ’s conduct, and during many staff interviews, it became apparent the management style within the ECQ is authoritarian and lacks consultation, consensus and integration. The culture is one of insecurity and avoidance, with poor staff engagement and communication.” Report recommended many changes to the ECQ’s culture and structure. Mr Soorley, in an interview with the ABC after the release of the report, was even more scathing. He said the ECQ's own internal review "glossed over many issues and problems within the organisation.” “Senior management staff often did not attend, or would leave early from, important meetings regarding election issues and planning. “The review panel was unable to meet with electoral commissioner Walter van der Merwe on his own, as he was always accompanied by the assistant commissioner who took the lead on responding to most issues. Their interactions and behaviour had the semblance of 'good cop, bad cop' management style.” Mr van der Merwe was appointed to the $300,00 job by the former Newman Government in 2014. A native of Zimbabwe and a graduate from South Africa’s University of Natal (now the University of KwaZulu-Natal). He migrated to Australia in 1989 and had a quick rise in the Queensland public service, serving as Executive Director of Corporate Capability with the Department of Premier and Cabinet from 1993 to 2010.   [post_title] => Operation Belcarra claims Queensland electoral commissioner [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => opoperation-belcarra-claims-queensland-electoral-commissioner [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-20 08:37:25 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-19 21:37:25 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=29155 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 29138 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-02-13 10:23:55 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-12 23:23:55 [post_content] =>

Australia’s states and territories are building more and more prisons, trying to outdo each other on law and order. Crime rates across Australia are falling , but incarceration rates have never been higher. So are the costs of locking up so many people. Australianj ails are becoming increasingly overcrowded, with many at breaking point. They also don’t work. Recidivism rates are very high, with released prisoners more likely to return to jail than not. Yet all this is happening as crime rates, in most jurisdictions and for most offences, are falling. Something just doesn’t add up. Recent numbers from the Justice chapter of Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services (RoGS show that in 2016-17, an average of 40, 059 people per day were held in Australian prisons, of which 8.1 percent were female and 27.6 percent were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. The numbers are up from 35,000 in 2015 and 25,000 in 2005. Another 68,110 offenders per day were serving community corrections orders, of which 19.1 percent were female and 20.1 percent were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders. Nationally, state and territory corrective services agencies operated 114 prisons at 30 June 2017 (not counting police station lockups). Total expenditure across Australia was $4.1 billion, a real increase of 7.2 percent from the previous year. Imprisonment rates are increasing, in every jurisdiction. The report pays special attention to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. The national imprisonment rate per 100,000 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population was 2,411.5 in 2016‑17, compared with a rate of 156.6 for the non-indigenous population. In other words, you are more than ten times more likely to be imprisoned if you are indigenous than if you are not. Imprisonment rates the Northern Territory, which has a much higher proportion of indigenous people, were much higher than the rest of the country. Indigenous prisoners are also much younger than the national average. Yet crime rates are decreasing. Statistics are notoriously out of date, but by most measures most crimes are decreasing. Some people argue that this is because more criminals are locked up, but this is fallacious reasoning – the rates were dripping long before the jail numbers went up. Public perceptions that crime is increasing are at odds with the statistics. Politicians of all persuasion and sensationalist media exaggerate the numbers for their own ends. It’s much easier to lock people up and be seen to be doing something than to tackle the causes of crime. The Productivity Commission report also looked at reoffence rates across Australia – measured by the proportion of people back in jail within two years of leaving it. In 2016-17, 44.8 percent of prisoners released in 2014-15 returned to prison within two years and 53.4 percent returned to corrective services (prison or community corrections). Nationally, these rates have increased over the last five years. This would seem to indicate that prison is not an effective deterrent, or at least that Corrective Services do not ‘correct’. But the report points out that it also been an effect of higher policing rates. Because the time period measured is comparatively small, and many more people may reoffend beyond the two-year limit. So, the number of jails and the number of prisoners just keep on increasing. In 2016 the NSW Government announced a$3.8 billion plan over four years to create 7000 extra beds in the state’s jails. A new ‘pop-up’ jail to deal with rampant overcrowding was opened in the Hunter Valley city of Cessnock in January, following another at Wellington in the state’s Central West. The inmates are housed in dormitory style accommodation, rather than cells. In January Victoria announced a major new prison at Lara near Geelong, to help “keep Victorians safe.” The Opposition has criticised the Government for not building more jails. Queensland suffers from chronic prisoner overcrowding. Assaults on guards and prisoners are increasing. Tasmania will get a new jail, no matter who wins the election in March. Australia has an incarceration rate of 168 prisoners per 100,000 population. It is lower than New Zealand’s 202, but higher than the UK’s 140. The major countries of Western Europe are all much lower: Germany, 78, Spain 131, Netherlands 69, France 103, Italy 89. The US is the outlier amongst western democracies. The Land of the Free locks up its population at alarming rates – 693 prisoners per 100,000 population. Australia has a long way to go before we reach those obscene numbers, but we are trying hard. Even on current numbers, the overcrowding, the recidivism rate, and the eagerness of governments to jump on the law and order bandwagon is a national disgrace. [post_title] => Opinion – Australia’s jails a national disgrace [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => opinion-australias-jails-national-disgrace [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-16 08:05:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-15 21:05:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=29138 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 29118 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-02-12 11:49:57 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-12 00:49:57 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_29120" align="alignnone" width="300"] Something is rotten in the City of Logan[/caption] Logan City Council has sacked its CEO Sharon Kelsey, who was appointed only in June 2017 after an intensive nationwide search. The council has refused to give any reasons for her termination, and Ms Kelsey herself has said she cannot comment for legal reasons. The Council meeting that decided on the move ended in uproar as ratepayers and staff in a packed public gallery were ejected from the chambers before the vote was taken. Seven councillors voted for Ms Kelsey to be sacked, with five opposing. Mayor Luke Smith, who is under investigation for corruption, had absented himself. The sacking is the latest episode in a tumultuous two years for Logan City Council. She replaced Andrew Milner, who had been in the job only seven months when he and his deputy John Oberhardt resigned. Mr Milner, a former army officer and Rio Tinto director, said he wanted to return to the private sector, but it is generally agreed there was much more to it than that. Ms Kelsey was previously Executive Director of Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC). She is a lawyer by training and was a barrister before joining IBAC. She was CEO of Glenelg Shire Council in Adelaide for four years and is a former South Australian police officer. She was hired as CEO after Logan City Council became one of the Queensland councils being investigated by Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) as part of Operation Belcarra, initiated after concerns about the possibly corrupt behaviour of many councillors in the 2016 Queensland local government elections. Other councils being investigated are Gold Coast, Moreton Bay, and Ipswich. Mayor Smith is being investigated by the CCC over allegations he attempted to influence council decisions on development applications that would benefit donors to his 2016 election campaign. He set up a company called Logan Futures to handle the campaign funds, which totalled nearly $400,000. Logan City Council, which takes in the southern suburbs of Brisbane and stretches down to the Gold Coast, is one of the largest in Australia, with over 300,000 residents. ABC News has reported that “a tearful Ms Kelsey declined to comment as she hugged staff and supporters.” It also quoted Councillor Darren Power, who voted against Ms Kelsey’s dismissal: “This is a disaster. We've just taken Ipswich off the front page, now we're the laughing stock of south-east Queensland. I don't know why she was sacked — councillors have never expressed to me why she was sacked.” He said she was popular with the staff and the community. The Council’s statement was short and said very little. Conspicuously absent was any reason for Ms Kelsey’s dismissal: “A special meeting was held today by Logan City Council regarding the employment agreement between Council and Chief Executive Officer Sharon Kelsey. “Council’s decision was in relation to Ms Kelsey’s six-month probationary period where it was decided she would not be appointed to the role of CEO. Council’s longest serving member of Executive Leadership Team, Mr Silvio Trinca (Director, Road and Water Infrastructure), has been appointed Interim CEO, effective immediately until a suitable replacement is found. “The special meeting was chaired by Acting Mayor Cherie Dalley with all divisional councillors present. Mayor Luke Smith was not present and did not participate in the vote. “Council will not be making any further comments in relation to this matter.” They maintain the fiction that she was not technically sacked, because she was on probation. Who will be Logan’s next CEO? Not counting people acting in the position, they will be the fourth in less than four years. Many will see it as a career-limiting choice. It certainly appears they will be handed a poisoned chalice.   [post_title] => Logan City Council in uproar as CEO sacked [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => logan-city-council-uproar-ceo-sacked [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-12 11:49:57 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-12 00:49:57 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=29118 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 29093 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-02-07 13:22:33 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-07 02:22:33 [post_content] =>

Australia’s ‘Four Pillars’ banking policy is redundant, there is not enough competition in the insurance industry, and the banks are using their market power to gouge their customers. That’s what the Productivity Commission thinks. The independent government agency has released its Draft Report on Competition in the Australian Financial System. It does not paint a pretty picture. The report comes just five days before the first public hearings of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, the inquiry the Federal Government was forced to call in November last year after strongly resisting calls to do so for over a year. The Government is unlikely to be happy with the timing of the Productivity Commission report, nor with its findings. The report paints a damning picture of a Government asleep at the wheel. It criticises virtually every aspect of the regulation of financial services in Australia, in what for a report of this nature is very strong language. The Productivity Commission has become something of a thorn in the Government’s side in recent years, its forthright analysis often a little too close to the bone. The first comments in the press have come out within hours of the draft report being released. The Fairfax press calls it ‘scathing’ and ‘withering’. The usually Government-friendly Murdoch press calls it ‘damning’ and ‘at odds with the Government’s claims’. So what does it say? The detailed analysis takes hundreds of pages, but some brief extracts will give you the flavour.

Four pillars policy

“Australia’s four-pillars policy … is an ad hoc policy that, at best, is now redundant, as it simply duplicates competition and governance protections in other laws. At worst, in this consolidation era it protects some institutions from takeover, the most direct form of market discipline for inefficiency and management failure. Raising the cap on ownership would offer a greater threat of market discipline, without green-lighting mergers.”

General insurance

“Market concentration is high and camouflaged, with a proliferation of brands but far fewer actual providers. Consumer confusion on product differences is attributable to the poor quality of information required to be provided to consumers and, to a lesser degree, the incentives faced by advisers.”

Industry oversight

“The institutional responsibility in the financial system for supporting competition is loosely shared across APRA, the RBA, ASIC and the ACCC. In a system where all are somewhat responsible, it is inevitable that (at important times) none are.”

Switching banks

“Barriers to switching can make loyal customers ripe for exploitation. The RBA reports that the variable interest rates of existing home loan customers average around 0.3 to 0.4 percent points higher than rates on new home loans. These higher rates are paid by around 15 percent of existing customers and equate to an extra $66 to $87 per month on the average home loan balance.” (Across the economy, this translates to a windfall to the banks of more than $1 billion a year).

Lack of competition

“Compared to banks overseas, Australia’s banks offer products that have comparatively low fees but give the banks moderately high interest margins. While industry participants point to lower fees and falls in some loan interest rates as indicative of price competition, lower input costs (the RBA’s target cash rate has fallen from 7.25 percent to 1.5 percent over the past decade) are substantially responsible. “The fall in the cash rate does not appear to have been fully passed on in lower prices across the board. Instead, the spread between home loans and the cash rate, for example, has largely increased in recent years. The RBA reports similar increases in interest rate spreads for business lending. In credit card markets, interest rates were estimated by CHOICE to be around 3 percentage points higher than they would be had the reduction in the cash rate in recent years been reflected in credit card interest rates.”   There’s a lot more in the same vein. The report dissects the regulatory landscape so thoroughly that it is hard to see how the Government can defend it. The Government called the Royal Commission because it could no longer resist the pressure to do something. It tried to muddy the waters by increasing its scope to superannuation, where it likes to criticise union involvement in industry funds (which actually perform better than those run by the big banks). It also hobbled the Royal Commission by giving it an impossibly short deadline – just 12 months – to complete its work. The Productivity Commission report shows that the real problem is with the whole structure of Australia’s financial system, which needs a root and branch overhaul. This is, it should be noted, a draft report. The Productivity Commission is seeking further submissions, and intends to send its final report to the Government on 1 July. The draft report can be found here.   [post_title] => Productivity Commission savages financial regulatory system [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => productivity-commission-savages-financial-regulatory-system [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-08 09:53:40 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-07 22:53:40 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=29093 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 29085 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-02-07 10:29:27 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-06 23:29:27 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_29104" align="alignnone" width="300"] Steve Martin - Senate bound[/caption] Australia’s High Court has said that mayors and other councillors are eligible to stand for state and federal parliaments, ruling that they do not hold ‘an office of profit under the Crown’. The judgement came with a unanimous decision by the Court in a case brought by One Nation against Devonport mayor Steve Martin, who replaced Jacqui Lambie as a Senator from Tasmania after Ms Lambie resigned over citizenship concerns. A solicitor for One Nation’s Kate McCulloch, who would have been in line for the seat if Mr Martin was ruled ineligible, said that Mayor Martin’s appointment would breach section 44(iv) of the Australian Constitution. It is section 44(i) of the Constitution regarding ‘allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power’ that has attracted the most attention recently, but section 44(iv) has The entire section 44 has been criticised as being poorly worded and in need of updating. Section (ii) deals members’ ineligibility because of criminal convictions, section (iii) with members’ bankruptcy or insolvency, and section (v) with members having a ‘pecuniary interest in an agreement with the Commonwealth’. All have been used on occasion to disqualify sitting members. The High Court has previously judged that the definition of ‘office of profit’ includes teachers in state schools and other public servants, but it has now ruled that local councillors are exempt, as they are elected by the people and the Crown had no influence over their appointment. Section 44 has become a serious issue since the start of the citizenship imbroglio, which has seen nine MPs, including Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, excluded from Parliament after doubts emerged about their citizenship. Steve Martin has been mayor of Devonport, on Tasmania’s north coast, since 2011. Also in the Senate will be former Tourism Minister and Senator Richard Colbeck, defeated in the 2016 election, who will return to the Senate as a replacement after the Liberals’ Senator Stephen Parry resigned in November 2017 over the citizenship issue. Mr Colbeck is also from Devonport. The ruling clarifies what has been for many a grey area. It clears the way for any councillor to stand for any Australian parliament, with no concern about their possible eligibility. [post_title] => Councillors not in ‘office of profit’ [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => councillors-not-office-profit [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-08 09:58:52 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-07 22:58:52 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=29085 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 29065 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-02-05 13:33:42 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-05 02:33:42 [post_content] =>

In 2016 the NSW Government amended the Local Government Act to change the legal definition of the role of councillors in the state. As well as motherhood statements such as being active and making considered decisions, one of the new responsibilities was “to uphold and represent accurately the policies and decisions of the governing body” (Section 232, (1) f). Taken at face value, this would seem to indicate that councillors should not publicly dispute decisions made by council, even if they do not agree with them. This is similar to the way a company’s board works, or Cabinet or a political party caucus. Trouble is, councils are not like that. They are composed of individuals with wildly differing views. This can lead to acrimony and divisiveness. Councillors sometimes actually come to blows. But many would argue that it is the soul of local politics. When the law was changed, there were some protestations that the new definition would lead to problems, and that councils would use it to stifle opposition. Now, it seems, those concerns are being realised. Armidale Regional Council, the sleepy university and cathedral city in the cold and rugged New England region of northern NSW, has released a draft media policy which, if implemented, will greatly curtail the rights of councillors to speak out on matters they do not agree with. The policy states that councillors must “support council’s official decisions” and “support Council’s official release of information rather than releasing information independently.” It goes on to state: “To ensure consistency of communication with media, key messages will be developed and used. Council acknowledges that not all media coverage will reflect positively on the organisation however it will seek to ensure that any media coverage of matters is balanced. Staff delegated to speak to the media and the process for escalation of issues will be identified in communications plans.” The policy is a direct result of the changes to the Local Government Act. It is a blatant attempt to stifle any councillor who disagrees with what the majority of the Council believes to be the ‘key messages’, and implicitly prohibits councillors who may disagree with council decisions from communicating their concerns to the media, “including on social media.” The full policy can be found here. Not surprisingly, the draft policy has been met with outrage. Fairfax Media has quoted NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge as saying that the policy will set a dangerous precedent, and Opposition Local Government spokesman Peter Primrose as saying it reflects a corporatisation of council activities. “The change was designed to silence dissent and now Armidale Regional Council has a draft policy that tries to do just that,” said Mr Shoebridge. “Councillors are elected to represent their local community, not spout approved lines from management or the majority on council.” Mr Primrose was equally forthright: “If a majority makes a decision, that doesn't mean the minority should be silenced and they can't continue advocating their positions. That's how corporations work but we’re talking about people elected to represent local communities." Independent councillor Margaret O'Connor said the policy "effectively tries to put the media department of council in charge of what councillors can say, quite an extraordinary attempt to limit our freedom of speech.” The only Labor Party member on council, Debra O’Brien, told local newspaper The Armidale Express that it is her duty to publicly question council decisions. “People didn’t vote for us to toe some hidden party line They voted for us so we’ll be accountable and answer their questions honestly. Anything less than that would be ripping off the ratepayers and residents,” she said.

Deputy mayor Dorothy Robinson, a Green, said the draft could prohibit councillors from saying anything that undermines public confidence, even when they have justifiable concerns.

 “If councillors can’t disclose relevant non-sensitive information how can they explain their decisions or consult the community prior to making a decision? A lack of transparency could undermine public confidence in council decisions.”

[post_title] => Armidale policy will ‘undermine public confidence’ in local government [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => armidale-policy-will-undermine-public-confidence-local-government [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-06 04:59:45 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-05 17:59:45 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=29065 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 29017 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-01-30 12:47:01 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-01-30 01:47:01 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_29019" align="alignnone" width="295"] Michael Bradley, AAA[/caption] Detailed analysis by Australia’s peak motoring body shows that nearly 90 percent of the targets in the 2011 National Road Safety Strategy will not be met. It says this is because governments are failing to fulfil the commitments made. The findings are contained in the Australian Automobile Association’s report ‘Benchmarking the Performance of the National Road Safety Strategy’. The AAA is the umbrella group for Australia’s state-based motoring associations. Chief executive of the AAA Michael Bradley said that eight of the 33 indicators set out in the Strategy are not even being measured, or do not have agreed targets. “This analysis is a damning indictment of those who have been responsible for the Strategy’s implementation since 2011. It reflects a disjointed and disorganised approach to road safety in this country. “Fewer than one in ten KPIs are likely to be met. That, and the fact that a quarter of KPIs still aren’t even being measured, reinforces the widely held view that government does not take this problem seriously. “We have just experienced the deadliest month on Australian roads since 2011. This should serve as a wake-up call to government that continued inaction is having devastating consequences.” The analysis has been done as part of the AAA’s submission to the Government’s recently announced inquiry into the Strategy. Signed by state and federal governments in 2011, the National Road Safety Strategy specifically aims to reduce death and injuries by 30 percent through the decade to 2020. It contains 33 individual safety performance Indicators. The AAA analysis shows only four of those 33 indicators are ‘on track’ to be met. A further six have been classified as ‘not on track, and 15 more have been deemed to be ‘unlikely to be met’. Road deaths in NSW and across Australia have declined sharply in the last 40 years, because of a range of factors including compulsory seatbelts, better roads, safer cars, random breath testing for alcohol, and stronger enforcement mechanisms such as speed cameras. By any measure, Australia has been very successful in reducing its road toll. The decline in absolute numbers is notable, and even more impressive is the reduction in fatalities per kilometre travelled. There are many more vehicles on Australian roads than there were 40 years ago. That metric is down by an extraordinary 80 percent. The AAA report compares data from regional, remote and metropolitan roads and displays the results in an easily understood traffic-light (red-amber-green) format. While most indicators show an improvement since 2011, this has slowed in recent years, with 2017 going backwards. In no state or territory is the trend line of decline in road fatalities exceeding the target. In Tasmania and the ACT the six year trend is up, and in NSW it is even. In 2016 Australian driver deaths were down by 7.7 percent, but passenger deaths were up by 13.0 per cent. Pedestrian deaths were down 12.6 percent and motorcycle deaths were down 15.3 percent, but cyclists’ deaths were up 31.0 percent. In 2016 Victoria has the lowest number of road deaths per 100,000 population, at 4.00. AAA analysis shows that if this figure were to be achieved nationally, 253 lives would have been saved across the country. “The results of this benchmark report indicate it is increasingly unlikely that Australia will achieve the NRSS target,” said Mr Bradley. “A significant increase in Commonwealth funding and leadership is required to improve this outlook. “The AAA has urged the Government to adopt the recommendations made in its National Road Safety Platform to get the Strategy back on track.” The AAA report is available here.     [post_title] => Governments failing on road safety, says AAA [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => governments-failing-road-safety-says-aaa [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-01 14:48:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-01 03:48:32 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=29017 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 28984 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-01-25 05:55:16 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-01-24 18:55:16 [post_content] =>

The Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services (RoGS) also covers Justice – Police, Courts and Corrective Services. Total government expenditure for the justice services measured in RoGS was almost $16 billion in 2016-17, around 7.2 percent of total government expenditure on services. Police services were the largest contributor (65.4 percent of this amount), followed by corrective services (25.3 percent) and courts (9.3 percent). Nationally, expenditure per capita on justice services was $660 in 2016-17. The RoGS Justice section is available here. A key measure used by RoGS across this sector is the reoffence rate. In most jurisdictions this means the proportion of  people back in jail within two years of leaving it. In 2016-17, 44.8 percent of prisoners released in 2014-15 returned to prison within two years and 53.4 percent returned to corrective services (prison or community corrections). Nationally, these rates have increased over the last five years. This would seem to indicate that prison is not an effective deterrent, or at least that Corrective Services do not ‘correct’. But the report points out that it also been an effect of higher policing rates. Because the time period measured is comparatively small, many more people may reoffend beyond the two-year limit.

Police Services

In 2016‑17 there were 72,680 police staff across Australia, 92.0 percent of who were in operational roles This equates to 274 police per 100, 000 people. Total recurrent expenditure was $10.9 billion. Just over 30 percent were female, a figure broadly consistent across all jurisdictions. Across Australia, the proportion of Magistrates’ Court adjudicated defendants resulting in a guilty plea or finding was 98.1 percent, a very high figure. Community satisfaction with police was also high, at around 80 percent (the figure was a little higher people who had had contact with the police in the previous 12 months. A similar number of people believe the police treat people fairly and equally. An important metric in the report is the proportion of reported offences that result in police proceedings. Homicide and armed robbery have very high clearance rates, above 90 percent. Your car is more than twice as likely to be stolen in Victoria and New South Wales, but you also have a much higher chance of getting it back in Victoria. Break-in rates are highest in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. One interesting measure is the proportion of the population who believe that various crimes are a problem in their neighbourhood. Around half of population is fearful of illegal drugs and two thirds say speed or dangerous driving is a problem. The numbers are very consistent across jurisdictions.

Courts

Total court administration recurrent expenditure less income (excluding fines) by court authorities across Australia was approximately $1.4 billion in 2016-17, comprising $1.2 billion for the State and Territory courts and $214.6 million for the Australian courts. In 2016-17, in the criminal jurisdiction of the supreme, district and county, magistrates’ and children’s courts, 825,202 cases were lodged, and 864 923 cases were finalised. In the civil jurisdiction of these same courts approximately 436,333 cases were lodged and 440,523 cases finalised. In the Australian courts, approximately 121,961 cases were lodged, and 117,027 cases finalised. Court metrics in RoGS include number of judicial officers per capita, court backlogs, disposals (the age of cases which have been finalised), attendance rates, clearance rates, and cost per finalisation. These all vary significantly by jurisdiction, and it is hard to generalise on which states and territories have the more efficient court systems. But the wide variation indicates there is significant room for improvement in many areas.

Corrective Services

In 2016-17, an average of 40, 059 people per day were held in Australian prisons, of which 8.1 percent were female and 27.6 percent were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Nationally, corrective services agencies operated 114 custodial facilities at 30 June 2017. Community corrections is responsible for a range of non-custodial sanctions and also manages prisoners who are released into the community and continue to be subject to corrective services supervision. In 2016-17, an average of 68,110 offenders per day were serving community corrections orders, of which 19.1 percent were female and 20.1 percent were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders. Nationally in 2016-17, net operating expenditure on corrective services including depreciation was $4.1 billion, a real increase of 7.2 percent from the previous year. Imprisonment rates are increasing, in every jurisdiction. The report pays special attention to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. The national imprisonment rate per 100,000 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population was 2,411.5 in 2016‑17, compared with a rate of 156.6 for the non-indigenous population. Imprisonment rates the Northern Territory, which has a much higher proportion of indigenous people, were much higher than the rest of the country. Indigenous prisoners are also much younger than the national average. Key Performance Indicators examined in the report include proportion of in education and training, proportion employed (around two thirds nationally), time out of cells, prison utilisation (most prisons are over capacity), deaths in custody, assaults, cost per prisoner, and escapes. It is not a pretty picture. Australian prisons are overcrowded, even as re-offence rates are rising. Something is not working.   [post_title] => PC Report on Government Services – Justice [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => pc-report-government-services-justice [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-01-25 05:55:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-01-24 18:55:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=28984 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 14 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 30133 [post_author] => 675 [post_date] => 2018-05-01 11:24:27 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-05-01 01:24:27 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_30134" align="aligncenter" width="584"] Queensland Parliament to debate local government laws in coming weeks.[/caption] Queensland’s councils have put forward tighter transparency regulations beyond those proposed by the state's corruption commission.     The suspension of councillors charged with an indictable offence, the mandatory registration of candidate’s interests pre-election and registration of donations and gifts for two terms are among reforms proposed by Queensland’s local governments. The proposed measures, which also include mandatory pre-election briefings, go beyond recommendations for tackling council misconduct currently being considered by State Government. At a meeting last week 16 members of the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ)’s policy executive voted for more stringent measures on misconduct to discourage corruption within councils. LGAQ chief Greg Hallam said that while the recommendations in the state’s Crime and Corruption Commission’s Operation Belcarra report were a “good start” they were not stringent enough. “We believe the CCC didn’t go as far as they might have in some areas and we’ve gone well beyond in some respects," he told Government News. Mr Hallam said that the recommendations were based on areas identified as a real concern by the LGAQ through polling and research.  “Views and perceptions are one thing, and the chairman of the CCC talks a lot about that, but we’re trying to deal with the reality,” he said. Last October the Queensland Government said it endorsed all of Operation Belcarra report's recommendations, supporting some in full and others in principle. In the coming weeks the Queensland Parliament will debate a bill enacting some of the Belcarra recommendations, after a parliamentary committee tabled its report last week

Pre-election conflict reporting

Under the recommendations in Operation Belcarra, the Electoral Commission of Queensland would be obliged to publish all declarations of interest on its website for nominated candidates, but not prospective candidates. The LGAQ has proposed a compulsory register of interests, made public on a website, for all prospective candidates pre-election. “There’s a perception that people don’t know the true nature of the candidacy of the people running, so we’ve said as a prerequisite for running all candidates must have a register of interest made public on a website,” Mr Hallam said. The LGAQ has also recommended that campaign expenditure limits would be set at $2 per enrolled voter for mayoral elections and $1 for councillor elections. The peak wants the provision of compulsory pre-election training to ensure that prospective councillors’ or mayors’ responsibilities and powers are clear at the outset. “Unfortunately we have people who put their hand up, who don’t understand the system … and then fight the system for the balance of their term or often times they literally resign frustrated with the system,” Mr Hallam said. The peak has proposed the introduction of a statutory provision to stand down councilors charged with an indictable offence at full remuneration until proven guilty to ensure that the presumption of innocence is safeguarded. A community awareness campaign on local government’s planning role should be rolled out to clarify the role of council in assessing development applications, LGAQ said.

Key findings: Operation Belcarra                                      

The CCC launched Operation Belcarra in March last year to investigate complaints that the conduct of candidates across several Queensland councils in 2016 amounted to corrupt conduct. Among these complaints were that candidates had operated as undeclared groups, lodged false electoral disclosure returns and failed to operate a dedicated bank account during this disclosure period. Inquiry chairperson, Alan MacSporran QC, said the report revealed the systematic extent of corruption within government:
“The recurring nature of these issues, despite increased regulation and oversight of local government, elections and political donations over time, highlights their inherent potential to cause concerns about corruption.”
The investigation recommended a number of changes including a ban on developer donations, legislation requiring real-time disclosure of electoral expenditure and a declaration of interests by all candidates nominated including new interests and the publishing of these interests on the ECQ website. It also called for bans on gifts seven days before elections and improved mechanisms to address conflict of interests in council decisions.
Comment below to have your say on this story.
If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at editorial@governmentnews.com.au.  
Sign up to the Government News newsletter.
[post_title] => Calls for crackdown on local government misconduct [post_excerpt] => Queensland’s councils have put forward tighter transparency regulations beyond those proposed by the state's corruption commission.    [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => calls-for-crackdown-on-local-government-misconduct [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-05-01 11:43:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-05-01 01:43:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=30133 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 458 [max_num_pages] => 33 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => 1 [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => 1 [is_tag] => [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => [is_robots] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => e46053626ef683a0d0c3286f6ba4eaa7 [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 1 [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) )

Law

mardi gras

Lockout exemption for Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

The NSW Government will provide an exemption to lockout requirements at venues in the Oxford St area for the 40th Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade on the weekend of 3-4 March. Minister for Racing Paul Toole said the one-off exemption means patrons will be able to be admitted to venues in the area […]

Qld Parlt

New retrospective Queensland law validates council rates

A law has been introduced in the Queensland Parliament which retrospectively validates council rates that may have been improperly issued. The new Local Government Legislation (Validation of Rates and Charges) Amendment Bill 2018 has been formulated as a response to a Queensland Supreme Court ruling in November 2017. That ruling, known as the Linville case, […]

Corruption2

Australia becoming more corrupt, shows international index

Australia rates comparatively well on international corruption scales, but it is getting worse. The annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) from Transparency International rates 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and business people. It uses a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and […]

timothy pilgrim

Data notification law starts today – as Privacy Commissioner says goodbye

The world is very different now, but many of us don’t know it. From 22 February 2018 Australia has a new Notifiable Data Breaches (NDB) regimen. Under the laws, passed in 2017 as the Privacy Amendment (Notifiable Data Breaches) Act, companies and government agencies have to tell people  if lost or stolen data “is likely […]

tumbarumba

Tumbarumba amalgamation protests intensify

They’re mad as hell down Tumbarumba way. The Snowy Mountains town best known for John O’Brien’s wonderful poem ‘Up at Tumba-bloody-rumba shootin’ kanga-bloody-roos’ has become the touchstone for renewed opposition to the NSW Government’s disastrous forced council amalgamation strategy. In May 2016 the local council was merged with neighbouring Tumut Shure to form Snowy Valleys […]

Walter van der Merwe

Operation Belcarra claims Queensland electoral commissioner

Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ) head Walter van der Merwe has resigned, two days after being suspended for allegations of serious misconduct. Current ECQ Assistant Electoral Commissioner Dermot Tiernan will be Acting Electoral Commissioner. In a short statement, Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said Mr van der Merwe “has delivered his resignation to the Governor this […]

jail

Opinion – Australia’s jails a national disgrace

Australia’s states and territories are building more and more prisons, trying to outdo each other on law and order. Crime rates across Australia are falling , but incarceration rates have never been higher. So are the costs of locking up so many people. Australianj ails are becoming increasingly overcrowded, with many at breaking point. They […]

logan CC

Logan City Council in uproar as CEO sacked

Logan City Council has sacked its CEO Sharon Kelsey, who was appointed only in June 2017 after an intensive nationwide search. The council has refused to give any reasons for her termination, and Ms Kelsey herself has said she cannot comment for legal reasons. The Council meeting that decided on the move ended in uproar […]

pcmoney

Productivity Commission savages financial regulatory system

Australia’s ‘Four Pillars’ banking policy is redundant, there is not enough competition in the insurance industry, and the banks are using their market power to gouge their customers. That’s what the Productivity Commission thinks. The independent government agency has released its Draft Report on Competition in the Australian Financial System. It does not paint a […]

steve-martin

Councillors not in ‘office of profit’

Australia’s High Court has said that mayors and other councillors are eligible to stand for state and federal parliaments, ruling that they do not hold ‘an office of profit under the Crown’. The judgement came with a unanimous decision by the Court in a case brought by One Nation against Devonport mayor Steve Martin, who […]

armidale

Armidale policy will ‘undermine public confidence’ in local government

In 2016 the NSW Government amended the Local Government Act to change the legal definition of the role of councillors in the state. As well as motherhood statements such as being active and making considered decisions, one of the new responsibilities was “to uphold and represent accurately the policies and decisions of the governing body” […]

Michael Bradley

Governments failing on road safety, says AAA

Detailed analysis by Australia’s peak motoring body shows that nearly 90 percent of the targets in the 2011 National Road Safety Strategy will not be met. It says this is because governments are failing to fulfil the commitments made. The findings are contained in the Australian Automobile Association’s report ‘Benchmarking the Performance of the National […]

rogs justice

PC Report on Government Services – Justice

The Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services (RoGS) also covers Justice – Police, Courts and Corrective Services. Total government expenditure for the justice services measured in RoGS was almost $16 billion in 2016-17, around 7.2 percent of total government expenditure on services. Police services were the largest contributor (65.4 percent of this amount), followed by […]