Redland mayor backs CCC recommendations for tightening up local government political donations

REDLAND  mayor Karen Williams has called on Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to implement Operation Belcarra’s recommendations to tighten up local government donating and voting rules as a priority.

CALL MADE: Redland mayor Karen Williams wants government to act fast on CCC recommendations.

CALL MADE: Redland mayor Karen Williams wants government to act fast on CCC recommendations.

Cr Williams said the government had to move quickly to ensure public confidence was retained in local government.

Ms Palaszczuk said the government would endorse all recommendations, supporting some in full and others in principle.

“We will ensure legislative change addressing Belcarra recommendations is properly scrutinised through the committee process,” she said. 

“Most importantly, when it comes to political donations – we will not introduce measures on local government that we do not apply to ourselves.

“...The Labor Party has stopped accepting donations from property developers.”

The Crime and Corruption Commission’s Belcarra probe into integrity and corruption issues in local government found there was evidence to refer Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate, Moreton Bay Mayor Allan Sutherland, former Ipswich deputy mayor Paul Tully and Gold Coast councillor Kristyn Boulton to the electoral commission for breaches of the Local Government Electoral Act.

The CCC did not act on the referrals due to a range of technical issues while a probe into Logan Mayor Luke Smith’s use of the Logan Futures bank account for donations continues.

Cr Williams said the Belcarra findings were not about suggesting councillors had not followed legislation, rather they were about strengthening legislation to provide clearer guidelines.

While she applauded the CCC recommendations for greater transparency for donations to candidates, changes to legislation needed to go a step further to prohibit donations from all interest groups, not only property developers.

“I agree there needs to be more information available to voters such as real time disclosure, the introduction of caps to campaign expenditure and making more information about donors and donations available to the public,” she said.

“...I also think there needs to be clarity regarding what constitutes a conflict of interest, so it is clear when councillors should abstain from voting.”

Legislation currently allows councillors to remain in the council chamber while a vote is taken if there is a perceived conflict of interest.

Capalaba MP Don Brown said the ban on developer donations would also apply to the state government.

“Banning developer donations, both on a state government and council level will greatly strengthen the integrity of planning decisions and resilience to real and perceived corruption,” he said.

“This builds on the government’s previous decision to lower the political donation threshold and introduce real time donation disclosure.”

“The CCC report makes sober reading.

Opposition leader Tim Nicholls said he had sought an urgent briefing with the CCC, after which he would speak with LNP MPs and then respond.

“I do note there are serious questions around union donations in this report and question why the premier is already excluding the unions from being considered for any potential bans,” he said.

Redland deputy mayor Wendy Boglary said she supported the recommendations and wanted all councillors and election candidates to say whether they backed the CCC advice.

“I certainly do and would also ask for a review of the Local Government Act,” she said.

Property Council chief executive Chris Mountford said individual groups like developers should not be singled out in regard to donations.

The Local Government Association of Queensland also is opposed to banning donations from groups like developers or forcing councillors with a conflict of interest to leave meetings.