Second reading: Local Government (Casey City Council) Bill 2020
Mr HIBBINS (Prahran): The Greens will be supporting the bill to dismiss the Casey council, and we do share the opposition’s concerns around the lengthy period before there is actually an election in Casey. So we put on the record that our preference would be for a shorter time before there is actually a democratically elected council put back in place in Casey, but we also acknowledge the monitor’s statement that the period should extend further than the next election period.
One of the main issues that has been raised in the monitor’s report is the clear conflict of interest and the lack of understanding of councillors of declaring conflicts of interests and not meeting their obligations under the Local Government Act 1989. Of course, the monitor has been put in place because of the damning evidence that has come out of the recent IBAC investigation into Casey council.
This conflict of interest—this cosy, close relationship between property developers and elected representatives—is the sort of thing that the Greens have been warning about for many years. Whether it be through donations or other financial arrangements for elected representatives—councillors in this instance—whilst making favourable planning decisions for the developer who had provided them with that financial benefit and a failure to declare those conflicts of interest is absolutely appalling. It is just what we have been warning about for many years and seemingly a clear attempt to buy influence, particularly for favourable planning outcomes.
You know, there is a saying about the wild, wild west. Well, it is kind of like the wild south-east out there in Casey, with a developer absolutely running riot in a local council, and it is absolutely appalling. That is why we do need donations reform in this state, to make sure that it is clear that property developers cannot donate to local government candidates or to state government candidates, because it does create at its heart a clear conflict of interest, and as has been noted by the monitor that is one of the main issues. It is why she is recommended the dismissal of Casey council.
The Greens support that, and we would also like to look at how we can make sure that Casey council is in a position that it can actually restore and have a democratically elected councillors as soon as possible but also make sure that the structures are in place for that to actually occur and that the community of council can actually have confidence once again in its council. Clearly at the moment it does not, and that is why it is in the best community interest that Casey council is dismissed and that both houses of Parliament support this bill.