Suspension likely for five councillors after Queensland Parliament passes new local government laws
Five Queensland mayors and councillors, including Logan Mayor Luke Smith and Ipswich Mayor Andrew Antoniolli, are facing immediate suspension under new laws passed in State Parliament.
The laws, which passed after three days of debate, also make it more likely that Ipswich City Council will be sacked.
The council has already been issued a show cause notice to ask why it should not be sacked.
Councillor Smith was charged by the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) with official corruption, perjury and failing to correct his register of interest in March.
Logan councillor Stacey McIntosh, charged with stealing in 2016, also faces likely suspension.
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.
The new legislation, when given assent by the Queensland Governor, will automatically mean the suspension of any councillor on serious charges.
The amendments also give Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe the power to sack councils when it is in the public interest.
Former Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale (left) is facing several charges after a CCC investigation. (AAP: Darren England)
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.
He said the legislation heralded a new era of accountability in local government.
The Minister has already announced Ipswich council will be sacked and administrators appointed. (ABC News: Melanie Vujkovic)
“Queenslanders expect and deserve good government — government that’s transparent and accountable,” he said.
“Regrettably, good government has been lacking at some of Queensland’s biggest councils.
“There are currently a number of mayors, councillors and council officers in Queensland facing dozens of criminal charges between them.
“The Crime and Corruption Commission has warned there are more charges on the way.
“Our reforms are not designed to catch those who make genuine mistakes, but to deal with the tiny minority not living up to community expectations.”
‘Debate on this bill was gagged’
While the Opposition supported the legislation, local government spokeswoman Ann Leahy said Labor ignored sensible safeguards and hurried the reforms through State Parliament.
“The LNP supports tough laws but checks and balances are missing,” Ms Leahy said.
“Labor has arrogantly gagged debate on this bill, including myself in mid-sentence, and these unprecedented amendments haven’t been subject to the normal committee process.”
Laws to ban property developer donations to political parties were simultaneously passed in State Parliament.
LNP education and industrial relations spokesman Jarrod Bleijie argued the ban should not be retrospective to October 2017 and should include union donations.
“This bill with respect to the donations, banning donations for property developers is simply to nobble the LNP’s chances of success at an election,” he said.
Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said the developer donation ban would help increase transparency at a local and state level.
“Those opposite are incredibly desperate, they’re desperate to hide donations,” she said.