The Baird Coalition Government has again voted to allow developers and real estate agents be elected to council despite their obvious conflict of interest deciding planning and development matters. This was Premier Baird’s last ditch attempt to appear credible on local government reform.
While the Local Government and Elections Legislation Amendment (Integrity) Bill contains positive steps towards limiting future donations for local council elections, donation caps will not kick in until 1 July 2016. This means every local government candidate being bankrolled by the property industry will already have received their corporate donations before the September elections.
The law was rushed through Parliament in just 24 hours, indicative of the Coalition’s continued disrespect for the voices of elected councillors and the broader community.
Greens MP and Local Government Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
“Premier Baird’s attempt to appear credible on local government integrity is hollow with the Coalition voting down a key Greens’ amendment that would have prohibited developers and real estate agents from being elected to council.
“This was Premier Baird’s last chance to restore some credibility for his local government reforms and he failed it, by putting developer interests ahead of the community.
“For over a decade the Greens have been a strong voice for limiting the role of money in politics and while we welcome the introduction of donation caps, the fact is they are too little too late.
“With donation caps not kicking in until 1 July 2016, developer interests will have basically already bought the next council elections.
“Expenditure caps would be a simple and accountable way to ensure that a measure of equity is introduced for the next local government elections, and that the integrity of local government is prioritised.
“This bill isn’t about integrity, but is empty political posturing that will do nothing to improve accountability in the upcoming September Local Government elections.
“It is disappointing that a bill supposedly relating to integrity in local Government is considered so unworthy of consideration and scrutiny that it is being rushed through without proper consultation.
“This disrespect for communities and councils is seen in the fact that the bill was rushed through Parliament in just 24 hours.
“Mike Baird says he wants to improve the accountability and integrity of local councils, yet across the state he has sacked councils, removed local democracy and appointed handpicked Administrators.
“Real reform starts with respecting local communities views on forced amalgamations, recognizing local government in the constitution and minimizing conflicts of interest at a structural level.
“The Greens know that restoring trust in our local councils starts with banning property developers and real estate agents from standing for office in the first place.” Mr Shoebridge said.