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Councillors subjected to oppressive State Conduct regime and denied procedural fairness.

This week some of the most "oppressive and restrictive " reforms to Councillor conduct were passed by Parliament. They deny procedural fairness and rules of evidence in Councillor dispute hearings. They aimed to fix poor Councillor conduct, but literally are a control mechanism.

With the shocking support of the Liberal/National Coalition - Councillors now face a conduct system that can be used purely for political retribution, at ratepayers’ expense.

MPs are failing our councillors across the state. Well at least Labor, Liberal and Nationals MPs are.

This week I had WORDS with leader of the opposition John Pesutto, rather he had some words with me (and hung up), none of which had anything to do with the Bill and how his party members were forced to vote on the wrong amendments.

This is also on the back of the Labor Minister Melissa Horne refusing to meet us for months on the proposed reforms. The minister has a history of refusing to meet with those who disagree. Diverse views are not to be tolerated.

MP’s themselves do not have such a prescriptive code of Conduct.

They can get away with a lot of poor behaviour.

So why oppress councillors and silence them?

Locally elected Councillors can now be pursued and suspended if they “offend people” with their choice of words. Other Councillors can pursue them, and if the minister decides herself to sack them, only a majority of Parliament can stop her. 

That is ludicrous policy.

Why does it matter? Because YOU elect Councillors to represent you

It is unfair for them to do so, only to be suspended or sacked because they call out fellow councillors, levels of government, or God forbid Council Staff when things are not right.

This really is a silencing of dissident and varied public views being expressed by Councillors and sending them to the gulags of shame.

The new conduct reforms will enshrine psychological public abuse on Councillors who make mistakes or have strong different opinions, and are publicly shamed and forced to apologise, in many cases for conduct that wasn't public in the first place. It's the stuff that ruins reputations and careers forever.

Presiding over this is the Minister who can determine all manner of suspension or sacking of democratically elected councillors.


Our good members submitted over 230 submissions in response to the proposed amendments to legislation. The overwhelming view was that the Minister (who is political) should not have such power over other elected officials. It would be reasonable by an oversight agency instead. Of course, the minister ignored our submissions. The Local Government industry itself only submitted 70 submissions from over 50,000 staff and representative bodies.

We always knew the bill would pass in the lower house.

In the upper house, we wrote to all MPs. We outlined the things they should support and the things they should not. We also explained what could be "lived with".

Right up to the vote, MPs do have the ability to change their mind.

I sat through the bill debate in parliament. Most speakers trashed the bill. It was good to hear, it was fair, reasonable and rational.

And then the Liberal/Nationals voted for it without the right amendments being in place - betraying every councillor in Victoria (that is not a Labor sycophant).

Well-done Labor. Well played. Labor is a formidable political operative.

It was a WEAK moment again for Liberals.

We were told that Peter Walsh MP was the key “negotiator” in the opposition on this bill.

I was slammed and blamed by a senior Liberal MP for not talking to Peter Walsh and for not understanding the deal was done considerable time ago. 

Peter has my number, (I am a volunteer, and I am not paid like he and the MPs are).   

It is the responsibility and role of all MPs to do their own homework and establish the merits of any proposed legislation. That is what we elect them for.

We asked around who Peter Walsh spoke to. We were met with silence.

Did he speak with Liberal aligned Councillors, or any Councillor at all?

We approached many Councillors (who were not Labor members) and asked them if Peter Walsh had contacted them at all. All said "no".

We then found 2 Councillors in the Northern Suburbs of Melbourne who had met with Peter Walsh in September 2023 (9 months ago) and relayed all the issues with the code of conduct system. Funnily none of the feedback was reflected in the accepted amendments.

Strangely, Peter Walsh appears to not have consulted with Councillors, instead speaking to the industry lobby groups (MAV/VLGA/LGPRO) who gouge $30 million a year from rates for their little empires.  Peter Walsh let Councillors across the state down.

How could you ever hold a different opinion to the Government if you are not willing to speak to different stakeholders? Shame on the Liberals. 

No wonder Pesutto’s opposition can’t land a blow against Labor. It doesn’t even listen to its own Liberal Councillors. It doesn’t even ask them their experiences. It failed to consult with those affected and those that pay for it.

It also silenced MPs in the chamber who are former Councillors and had been speaking up against the Bill. That’s not reasonable. Was the opposition just grandstanding to look like they had negotiated something? Probably.

The amendments were poor, and it would have been wise to block the legislation proposed. The government had no hope of passing it without coalition support.

Was the opposition just desperate to be "seen to do something"?

Councillors deserve politicians across the chamber and political divide, who will protect their reasonable rights to free speech and political expression. It really is that simple. That is why we elect local Councillors to represent us. We do not want them to be a puppet or controlled by any State Government of any political persuasion.

Of course, actual bad conduct should be dealt with. But if the MPs wouldn't subscribe to the same standards, who are the hypocrites here?

Thank God for the entire crossbench and the Greens for having integrity and voting against the amendments. What was the standout was that the Greens, the Libertarians, One Nation, Legalise Cannabis, all of them were united, and it was the only good in all of this. David Limbrick MP had some great words, the standout was Moira Deeming MP, free from the Liberal shackles she did what any MP should do, she doubled down and slammed the government’s proposal and defended ALL councillors across the state, refusing the controlling agenda.

I will bet that has gotten under many in the Liberal leaderships skin.

Why is it so hard to just do the right thing?

We need an opposition that will have a plan for local government.

Rates bills and service levels do not correlate, someone must fix this, the coalition is silent again.

At least Bev McArthur walked out and refused to toe the party line, now that is integrity.

I wonder if she got the same gob full, I got this week. Probably.

She also doubled down and released her speech slamming the control of councillors.


To all Councillors in the state, my heartfelt apologies that you were thrown under the bus by both major parties this week, you deserve better support.

Another win for Labor in the battle for control. Well played Labor.




A pox on both their houses. (LOL)


While you are here - can you please update your council details in our system (it will take a few seconds) www.councilwatch.com.au/update

 

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In which state is this?

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Victoria

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...and yet staff and even councillors bully ratepayers all the time, not showing proceedural fairness or natural justice and nobody seems to care. Or is that just my local council who seem to run with the motto of "litigate not mediate"

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Why people keep voting for these parasitic, incompetent, over paid, narcissistic, corrupt psychopaths is beyond comprehension. Stockholm syndrome!

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