Trick or Treat? Stage 2 of Belcarra Receives Royal Assent

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Published by Preston Law on 07/11/2019

The Local Government Electoral (Implementing Stage 2 of Belcarra) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2019 (Act) was assented to on 30 October 2019.

Part of the Act commenced on 30 October 2019. The remainder of the changes contemplated by the Act will not commence until proclaimed.  

Notably, the key amendments include changes to the Local Government Act 2009. Changes to the Local Government Electoral Act 2011, Referendums Act 1997 and the Right to Information Act 2009 are also provided for.

Amendments to the Local Government Act 2009 in effect from assent include:

  • A prohibition on controlled entities of a local government to publish or distribute election material;
  • A raft of changes in relation to Chapter 5 of the Act which deals with the monitoring and enforcing of the Local Government Acts. The changes provide the department’s chief executive with the power to:
    • gather information to monitor whether a local government or councillor’s are performing their responsibilities.
    • allow the Minister or the chief executive to take remedial action if it is in the public interest to do so.
    • changes have also been included for the chief executive to take action and appoint financial controllers or advisors on the basis of its belief that a local government or councillors are not performing their responsibilities or if it is the public interest to do so. Previously, information needed to have been gathered which provided evidence of the failure to perform responsibilities;
  • Councillors or the CEO will be penalised if they provide notice to the assessor of inappropriate conduct or misconduct that is vexatious and not made in good faith;
  • Councillor conduct provisions of the Act have been updated with the effect that in some instances provisions that only previously applied to misconduct now apply to inappropriate conduct as well.

Also in effect from assent are the following key Belcarra reforms:

  • Mandatory ‘So you want to be a councillor’ training for all candidates;
  • Transparent candidate bank accounts;
  • Additions to restrictions during the caretaker period.

On its website, the Department of Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs has outlined the effective dates of additional reforms developed from the Belcarra Report as follows:

  • 18 November 2019
    • Expanded councillor rights to access council information;
    • Changes in the way budgets are presented to councillors;
    • Changes to mayoral powers to direct CEO’s and senior executives.
  • 20 January 2020
    • Donation disclosures, including donation sources.

If you or your Council requires further advice or information in relation to the changes contact our Team today.

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