Ipswich, Logan mayors face suspension ‘within days’ under new local government laws
Five Queensland mayors and councillors, including Logan Mayor Luke Smith and Ipswich Mayor Andrew Antoniolli, will be taking the “tough medicine” of immediate suspension after new laws passed in State Parliament last night, the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) says.
The laws, which passed after three days of debate, give Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe the power to sack councils when it is in the public interest, making it more likely that Ipswich City Council will be sacked.
Councillor Smith was charged with official corruption, perjury and failing to correct his register of interest, by the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) in March.
At Ipswich, Councillor Antoniolli would be automatically suspended, although he has already stepped aside from mayoral duties after being charged with fraud offences by the CCC earlier this month.
Earlier this month, Mr Hinchliffe moved to sack the entire Ipswich Council and have administrators appointed after the arrests of a string of people linked to the council, including two mayors and two CEOs.
It is unclear whether Mr Hinchliffe will use the new powers to sack the entire Ipswich Council, having been issued a show cause notice as to why it should not be.
LGAQ chief executive officer Greg Hallam said the tough laws were a “significant point” in local government history.
“These are very strong, very robust laws and they will help restore the confidence in the local government sector,” Mr Hallam said.
Former Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale (left) is facing several charges after a CCC investigation. (AAP: Darren England)
Once the laws are given assent by the Queensland Governor, any councillor facing serious charges will be suspended, including Cr Smith and Cr Antoniolli.
Sacking Ipswich council ‘clearly a possibility’
Mr Hallam said he thought the suspensions would happen in “a matter of days, not weeks”.
“They [Cr Smith and Cr Antoniolli] will be very disappointed — it’s a very difficult measure,” he said.
“Importantly, they’ll continue to be paid — that’s the fundamental issue in relation to the presumption of innocence … they haven’t yet had their day in court.
“It’s tough medicine, but it’s a position that councils across Queensland are largely satisfied with.”
Mr Hallam said he had not assumed Ipswich City Council would be sacked, but said it was “clearly a possibility”.
“The Ipswich City Council through the show cause process will have the opportunity to put a formal case as to why they shouldn’t be sacked,” Mr Hallam said.
“Natural justice has to proceed and they have to have their ability to argue their side of the case.”