A new code of conduct framework for local government and local councillors has come into force this week.
Amendments to the Local Government Act 1993 will introduce a streamlined, practical and enforceable local government code of conduct framework for Tasmanian councillors.
Anyone can now lodge a code of conduct complaint against a councillor within six months of the alleged contravention and have it heard under the new framework.
A new Local Government Code of Conduct Panel has also been appointed. Seven women and five men have been appointed to the 12 person Panel.
The membership is drawn from across the State and will allow for complaints to be heard right around Tasmania.
Each complaint will be investigated by three members of the Panel.
The Code of Conduct Panel has the new power to suspend a councillor for up to three months, without allowances, for a serious breach of the Code of Conduct.
Underpinning the new framework is the Model Code of Conduct. The Model Code of Conduct prescribes a clear standard of behaviour that all Tasmanian councillors are required to meet when performing their role. Councils are required to adopt the Model Code of Conduct by 12 July 2016. Until a council adopts the Model Code of Conduct, its previous Code of Conduct remains in force.
Multiple serious breaches of the Code of Conduct are not tolerated under the new framework, which provides that the Minister may remove a councillor from office if he or she has received a suspension sanction for three code of conduct breaches during one term of office or two consecutive terms of office. This provides a powerful deterrent and ensures that councils can run effectively without the distraction of repeated bad behaviour.
The efficiency of the system is enhanced by providing the Code of Conduct Panel with the ability to dismiss frivolous and vexatious complaints.
Enforceability is a hallmark of the new framework. If a councillor fails to comply with a sanction imposed by the Panel, that councillor may face a penalty of a fine not exceeding 50 penalty units, which is currently valued at to $7, 700.
Further information regarding the new Code of Conduct framework can be found on the Department of Premier and Cabinet’s Local Government Division website at www.dpac.tas.gov.au/divisions/local_government.