This afternoon I attended a round table discussion on the State Government’s Conflict of Interest provisions for Local Government. The session was convened by the State Government and held at Knox City Council, enabling Mayors and council staff to discuss potential reform to the current provisions.
While I can appreciate the intent of the Government’s conflict of interest reforms to local government, this has had unintended consequences, including difficulties in being advocates for community causes.
For example, when I was Treasurer of the Croydon Conservation Society I was unable to vote or discuss Council’s Sustainability Strategy, since the Croydon Conservation Society wrote a submission in response to the strategy.
This hampered my ability as a Councillor to discuss environmental sustainability and led to my resignation as Treasurer of the Society. While strong conflict of interest provisions are definitely required to ensure accountable local government, it should not hamper a Councillor’s ability to represent their community.
Further more there seems to be a significant amount of variability as to how these provisions are implemented across the local government sector. Conflict of Interest provisions need to be clear and concise without any ambiguity that might hamper their intent.
These concerns are widespread across the local government sector and it is hoped that the State Government considers amendments that do not hamper a Councillor’s ability to represent their community to the fullest extent possible.