Newspaper article The Queensland Times (Ipswich, Australia)

Conflict of Interest? Ipswich Council Calls for Changes to Declaration Rules

Newspaper article The Queensland Times (Ipswich, Australia)

Conflict of Interest? Ipswich Council Calls for Changes to Declaration Rules

Article excerpt

Byline: Helen Spelitis Helen.Spelitis@qt.com.au

COUNCILLORS are spending a significant amount of time during meetings declaring 'conflicts of interest' including disclosing where their children play sport.

At the last three monthly meetings Ipswich councillors made 21 declarations of a "perceived conflict of interest" while voting on nine items.

Some are considered minor, such as Mayor Paul Pisasale declaring he is a supporter of the Brassall Christmas in the Park event, while others are more serious including Cr Andrew Antoniolli's involvement with the RSPCA.

It's an area that is now being considered for reform after Ipswich City Council successfully tabled a motion at the annual Local Government Association Conference being held this week on the Gold Coast.

The council is calling on the LGAQ to lobby the State Government to simplify the process, saying the current rules can lead to lengthy declarations, often with numerous councillors declaring the same conflict.

But experts warn reform could be dangerous with the definition of a 'minor' or 'major' conflict playing a key role.

During meetings, councillors are required by legislation, under the Local Government Act 2009 sections 172 and 173, to declare any vested interest or association that could be reasonably perceived as a conflict.

Councillors then decide whether they should excuse themselves from the debate and the vote. If the conflict is considered 'minor' they can stay with the approval of fellow councillors.

In Ipswich that has led to frequent and repeated declarations from councillors, and the CEO, as directors of Ipswich City Properties for example, and other council companies.

In the motion put to the LGAQ Conference, which finished yesterday, Ipswich City Council says the declarations can be "onerous and cumbersome when all councillors declare similar conflicts". …

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