Local Government Amendment Bill 2016
Mr HIBBINS (Prahran) — Just briefly on this bill, it has obviously been brought forward to avoid the absolute fiasco of having 13 councils dismissed or councillors being excluded from being able to hold that position. Following the commencement of the Local Government Amendment (Improved Governance) Act 2015 individual councils were required to update and review their codes of conduct within four months of its commencement in March 2016 with councillors having to sign that code of conduct within one month of any amendment.
A number of councils have not met the letter of the law in terms of fulfilling that requirement. When you read the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate's report some councils have not met it in totality. A number of councils attempted to do so. There are some pretty technical instances where some have not met their requirement. We have one council that adopted its code at an ordinary council meeting rather than at a special council meeting, we had a number of councils not including the word 'abide' when their councillors signed the code of conduct and we had another individual councillor signing the code of conduct in front of a council staff member rather than the CEO. So it is fair to say that a number of these councils that are on the chopping block attempted to meet the letter of the law in the spirit of this legislation.
I think there has been a bit of a blame game over who to blame for this instance. No doubt the councils that have not met the requirements of course need to share in their part of the blame, given that most other councils fully met their requirements under the law. I think Parliament could wear its fair share of the blame for passing a law that clearly did not work. As pointed out by the leader of the Victorian Greens in statements to the media, the law was drafted in a way that there was no way of really coming back. If the letter of the law was not met, there was no way to rectify it without going to the extreme.
The government implemented a new law. We had a vast number of councils and councillors who attempted to meet the letter of the law, but did not. You would have to say that the government has to wear its fair share of the blame for its failure to properly implement this new legislation.
I note the media release that came out. We probably could have saved some words and said, 'Not our fault; don't blame us'. That probably would have sufficed rather than suggesting gross incompetence on behalf of those councillors who attempted to but did not meet the letter of the law. The Greens will be supporting this legislation.