Shiny and New for 2020

While 2019 is coming rapidly to a close, 2020 has some bright and shiny legislative changes which kick in in the New Year.

What Prospective Councillors Need To Know 

The local government election is on 28 March 2020 and there are a raft of changes to the Local Government Electoral Act, including:

  • Candidates must do mandatory training and obtain a certificate before they can nominate as a candidate including the current Elected Members who are intending to stand again
  • Candidates must set up a dedicated bank account to receive funding and for outgoing expenses even if the candidates are self-funded
  • Candidates cannot take donations from property developers

Take Care in the Caretaker Period

Once the election is declared, the caretaker period kicks in and there are new restrictions on what a Council can and cannot do during this period including:

  • Council can’t make or distribute electoral material which could influence the vote or effect the election result
  • Council can’t enter into contracts in excess of $200,000 or 1% of the net rates and utility charges or employ/terminate/change the remuneration of the Chief Executive Officer
  • Council can’t make any major policy decision including making/amending planning schemes or local laws, approving development variation requests

Spend Wisely 

Councillors will have new rules dealing with discretionary funds in 2020 including:

  • The total amount of a Councillors discretionary funds available for community organisations must be published in the budget
  • Discretionary funds must be spent for a community purpose which can include capital works with approval of the Mayor and Chief Executive Officer
  • Councillors cannot make new decisions on spending discretionary funds from 1 January in any election year

Explosive Changes 

The Land Explosives and other Legislation Amendment Act 2019 was enacted in March 2019 and the amendments kick in on 1 February 2020. These amendments include:

  • Increased security vetting of people with access to security-sensitive explosives and issue of security clearances or authorities
  • People subject to domestic violence orders are prohibited from holding a security clearance or authority
  • Explosives safety and security management systems now to include a security plan which is expected to align with the Weapons Act and mining safety laws

Looking after the Reef 

The new reef protection regulations came into effect on 1 December 2019 and will be rolled out over 3 years. The new regulations include:

  • Addressing water runoff into the Great Barrier Reef by improved agricultural practices and increased reporting obligations
  • Environmental authorities will be required for new or expanded cropping or horticultural projects and intensified use of land, such as for water or sewerage treatment plants
  • New minimum standards for discharge of water to improve water quality

Moving and Shaking up the Land Act

Legislative changes to the Land Act will address a number of issues including:

  • A new standard of measurement for spatial positioning to map, update and provide reference points and coordinates for surveying cartography geology navigation and astronomy
  • Ability to transfer specific leases without having to obtain a Ministerial approval to do so and Chief Executive can make offers of new leases without the lessee having to make a formal application
  • Removal of the impediments to the grant of land without competition to traditional owners where there is an Indigenous Land Use Agreement in place and where there has been a historical extinguishment of native title.

Risks of Modern Slavery 

The new reporting obligations for large companies operating in Australia on the risks of modern slavery in the operations and supply chains kick in in 2020 as set out below:

  • Entities with a turnover of $100m per financial year commencing in 2019 will be reporting entities if the entity fits the definition of a reporting entity in the Act
  • Reports are to be provided within 6 months of the end of the financial year of the entity so it is important to review supply chains and start collecting data
  • May apply to local governments where there is an incorporated commercial entity with a turnover of $100m in a financial year.

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