Mayor slams 'ridiculous' developer donation ban laws
CONFUSION surrounding the Queensland Government's new developer donation ban laws has reached Gladstone with Mayor Matt Burnett slamming the recently implemented legislation as "ridiculous".
The legislation - Local Government Electoral (Implementing Stage 1 of Belcarra) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2018 - was developed in response to the Crime and Corruption Commission's Operation Belcarra, which was undertaken following the 2016 local government elections.
The CCC received complaints about the conduct of candidates for several councils, including Gold Coast, Ipswich, Moreton Bay and Logan, commencing Operation Belcarra.
The Bill was passed by parliament on May 17 after being introduced October 12, 2017.
However, a number of concerns have been raised by the Property Council of Australia, who cited "significant flaws and ambiguity with the definition of a 'property developer' have been communicated, with the proposed definition capturing a significant number of individuals and entities who should not be regarded as developers".
The biggest confusion surrounding the legislation for mayors and councillors was whether they could simply accept a cup of coffee from a property developer.
Gladstone Region mayor Matt Burnett didn't mince his words regarding the legislation, labelling it as "rushed" and "a joke".
"I don't have to have a developer, or whoever, shout me a cup of coffee, I'm quite happy to buy my own," Cr Burnett said.
"But what I'm saying is, if we go to a function where buying isn't an option, you're at a function and they supply morning tea - well then all of a sudden you've received a gift and the gift means you now have a material personal interest.
"You can't go to jail for having a scone, but that's basically what the legislation says.
"I know they are scurrying in William St to look at how they can amend it so it's not ridiculous because that's what it is."
A spokesperson from the Department of Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs said the implementation of Stage 1 of Belcarra was the government's response to five of the CCC's 31 Operation Belcarra recommendations.
The department did hint that amendments could take place next year.
"The Government has committed to implementing its response to the remaining Operation Belcarra recommendations, which may result in further legislative changes in 2019," the spokesperson said.
Cr Burnett said there are plenty of examples where councillors could find themselves with a conflict.
"The worse thing is, if I go to a function hosted by REIQ (Real Estate Institute Queensland) they might put on a breakfast," he said.
"Any kind of gift is a material personal interest but if I go to the same meeting with a (Queensland) minister they can sit down to a three-course meal and walk out with no conflict.
"But if I have a cup of tea I'm in trouble - it's just ridiculous."
Cr Burnett said councils were being punished for the actions of others.
"They rushed it through because of what's happened in south east Queensland. There's a lot of issues down there that doesn't necessarily flow through the rest of the state."
"They are trying to implement rules for the 77 councils when by and large all of them are doing the right thing."