In recent months, a local Government has fallen under scrutiny from the community after an elected member remains on Council, despite being allegedly listed on the Community Protection Offender Register.
Under the current Local Government Act 1993, a minister does not hold the authority to remove a Councillor from their position.
Last month, the West Tamar Council unanimously passed a motion to support a motion moved by Dr Mary Duniam, Deputy Mayor and Councillor from Waratah Wynyard Council to alter the current eligibility criteria for potential candidates and/or current office members along with other key issues raised under the current guidelines.
The motion calls for additional requirements for eligibility to stand as a Councillor, but alsocalls on the government to make improvements to the Code of Conduct, as well as providing clear penalty guidelines to include the ability to suspend and stand down a Councillor in circumstances that align with breaches of the Local Government Act 1993 and the Code of Conduct.
The review of the eligibility criteria, for potential candidates to nominate for and/or hold the office of Local Government Councillor in Tasmania would include the following:
- Requirement for a mandatory Police Check
- Requirement to provide a criminal history; and
- Requirement for current Working with Vulnerable People registration
West Tamar Councillor Jess Greene said It is common practice for employers and community organisations to ask for a Police Check.
“Sporting coaches, volunteers in the local library, bus drivers, church leaders, and board members for community organisations need Working with Vulnerable People cards. As Councillors, we should at the very least hold ourselves to the same standard,” said Cr Greene.
“Many Councils have youth programs, like ours, and some have childcare centres. Local Government is grassroots politics, we are connected to community.”
“As Councillors, we can get sacked for missing a few Council meetings, yet we have a Councillor in the NW who has broken the law, committed a crime against a young person, caused huge embarrassment to his council colleagues and community, and yet he can continue to collect his council allowance, and remain put.”
“As Councillors, we are in a position of power, and we can do better. The Community expect us to do better. It is our job, as adults first and foremost, and especially as elected representatives, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of those in our community and to act with honesty and integrity at all times.”
Under the new proposed motion, the Code of Conduct would seek to maintain the trust placed in Councillors by the public, by ensuring that individual members of the council conduct themselves in the following manner:
- Act with integrity and honesty
- Act lawfully
- Treat all persons with civility; and
- Lead by example and act in a way that secures public confidence in the office of councillor
“We have also witnessed many aspects of poor behaviour in Local Government related to bullying and other inappropriate behaviour. All that could and should be adequately captured in a robust Code of Conduct with real power.”
“The Minister for Local Government recently put forth legislation for compulsory voting at the October Local Government elections without consulting the community or sector. Changes to eligibility and code of conduct is surely just as pressing as that issue.”
“Poor Councillor behaviour should not be tolerated, because without the trust of our community, we have diminished capacity to meet complex, long-term challenges.”