THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT IN AUSTRALIA

	RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN COUNCILLORS (UNPAID VOLUNTEERS) AND COUNCIL OFFICERS (PAID)

	A	How the Electronic Transaction Act can pay Mayors & Councillors	
	B	The State Local Government Acts
	C	The Federal and State Electronic Transactions Acts
	D	The Councils' Code of Conduct for Mayors and Councillors

A	HOW ELECTRONIC TRANSACTION ACTS CAN PAY MAYORS AND COUNCILLORS

Each State and Territory, apart from the Australian Capital Territory, passed a New Local
Government Act between 1989 and 1999.

In 1999 the Federal Government led the way with the Commonwealth Electronic Transaction Act

		ELECTRONIC TRANSACTIONS ACT 1999 - SECT 3 
Object 
"The object of this Act is to provide a regulatory framework that: 

(a) 	recognises the importance of the information economy to the future economic and social
	prosperity of Australia; and 

(b) 	facilitates the use of electronic transactions; and 

(c) 	promotes business and community confidence in the use of electronic transactions; and 

(d) 	enables business and the community to use electronic communications in their dealings
	with government"

Each State has published its own Electronic Transaction Act with attendant Regulations.

However the Local Government Mayor and Councillors do not appear to have been informed
of the new Economic and Social Prosperity expected from the Electronic Transaction Act for 
their Council.

There appears to be a failure to: 

1	notify volunteer Mayors and volunteer Councillors of potential recognition from 
	achieving the objectives of the new Council Strategies.

2	include estimates of the potential revenue to the Local Communities in the Council 
	Management Plans that have been reviewed so far

3	acknowledge the benefits to the Local Communities in the Code of Conduct published
	by the Councils - see the Lismore Current Code of Conduct below the Acts listed
INDEX A - AUSTRALIAN LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACTS

2-NSW Local Government Act 1993
3-Vic Local Government Act 1989
4-Qld Local Government Act 1993
5-SA Local Government Act 1999
6-WA Local Government Act 1995
7-Tas Local Government Act 1993
8-NT Local Government Act 1993

INDEX B - AUSTRALIAN ELECTRONIC TRANSACTION ACTS

1-Fed Electronic Transaction Act 1999 (Cth)
1-Fed Electronic Transaction Regulations 2000 (Cth)
2-NSW Electronic Transactions Act 2000 (NSW)
2-NSW Electronic Transaction Regulations 2001 (NSW)
2-NSW Electronic Transaction (ECM Courts) Order 2005 (NSW)
3-Vic Electronic Transactions (Victoria) Act 2000 (Vic)
3-Vic Electronic Transactions (Victoria) Regulations 2000 (Vic)
4-Qld Electronic Transactions (Queensland) Act 2001 (Qld)
5-SA Electronic Transaction Act 2000 (SA)
5-SA Electronic Transaction Regulations 2002 (SA)
6-WA Electronic Transaction Act 2003 (WA)
6-WA Electronic Transaction Regulations 2003 (WA)
7-Tas Electronic Transaction Act 2000 (Tas)
7-Tas Electronic Transaction Regulations 2001 (Tas)
8-NT Electronic Transaction (Northern Territory) Act 2000 (NT)
9-ACT Electronic Transaction Act 2001 (ACT)

RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN COUNCILLORS (UNPAID VOLUNTEERS) AND COUNCIL OFFICERS (PAID)

This information is an extract from the Lismore Council current "Code of Conduct" document

		 8 	Relationship between council officials 
		 9	Access to Information and Council Resources 
		10 	Reporting breaches, complaint handling procedures & sanctions 
		11 	Councillor Misbehaviour 

8 	RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN COUNCIL OFFICIALS 

Obligations of councillors

8.1 	Each council is a statutory corporation. 

	The councillors are the governing body of the corporation. 

	Councillors have the responsibility of directing and controlling the affairs of the
	council in accordance with the Act. 

8.2 Councillors must: 

	a	refrain from directing council staff other than by giving appropriate direction
		to the general manager in the performance of councilís functions by way of 
		council or committee resolution, or by the Mayor exercising their power under 
		section 226 of the Act (section 352)

	b	refrain from, in any public or private forum, directing or influencing, or 
		attempting to direct or influence, any other member of the staff of the council
		or a delegate of the council in the exercise of the functions of the member or 
		delegate (Schedule 6A of the Act)

	c	refrain from contacting a member of the staff of the council unless in 
		accordance with procedures governing the interaction of councillors and council 
		staff that have been authorised by the general manager 

	d	not contact or issue instructions to any of councilís contractors or tenderers, 
		including councilís legal advisers, unless by the Mayor exercising their power
		under section 226 of the Act. 

Role of the Mayor

8.3 	The role of the Mayor is defined by section 226 of the Act. 

	This role is the same whether the Mayor is popularly elected or elected by the 
	councillors. 

Obligations of staff

8.4 	The General Manager is responsible for the efficient and effective operation of the 
	councilís organisation and for ensuring the implementation of the decisions of the 
	council without delay. 

8.5 	Members of staff of council have an obligation to: 

	a	give their attention to the business of council while on duty 

	b	ensure that their work is carried out efficiently, economically and
		effectively

	c	carry out lawful directions given by any person having authority to give such
		directions 

	d	give effect to the lawful policies, decisions and practices of the council, 
		whether	or not the staff member agrees with or approves of them. 

Obligations during meetings

8.6 	You must act in accordance with councilís Code of Meeting Practice, if council has 
	adopted one, and the Local Government (Meetings) Regulation 1999  - this was repealed
	in 2001 during council and committee meetings. 

8.7 	You must respect the chair, other council officials and any members of the public
	present during council and committee meetings or other formal proceedings of the
	council. 

Inappropriate interactions

8.8 	The following interactions are inappropriate: 

	a	Councillors approaching council staff other than directors or senior staff for
		information on sensitive or controversial matters. 

	b	Council staff approaching councillors directly on individual staffing matters. 

	c	Councillors approaching council staff outside the council building or outside
		hours of work to discuss council business. 

	d	Council staff refusing to give information which is available to other 
		councillors to a particular councillor because of the staff memberís or 
		councillorís political views. 

	e	Councillors who have lodged a development application with council,discussing 
		the matter with council staff in staff-only areas of the council. 

	f	Councillors being overbearing or threatening to council staff. 

	g	Councillors directing or pressuring council staff in the performance of their
		work, or recommendations they should make. 

	h	Council staff providing ad hoc advice to councillors without recording or 
		documenting the interaction as they would if the advice was provided to a 
		member of the community. 

	i	Councillors approaching council staff organisations; for example unions and 
		associations; in relation to staffing matters that relate to individual staff 
		members rather than broader industrial policy issues. 

	j	Council staff meeting with developers alone and outside office hours to discuss 
		development applications or proposals. 

	k	Councillors attending on-site inspection meetings with lawyers and/or 
		consultants engaged by council associated with current or proposed legal 
		proceedings unless permitted to do so by councilís general manager or, in the
		case of the Mayor, exercising their power under section 226 of the Act. 

9	ACCESS TO INFORMATION AND COUNCIL RESOURCES 

Councillor access to information

9.1 	A council must provide access to the documents available under section 12 of the Local 
	Government Act 1993 to all members of the public, and to councillors. 

	A council must also provide councillors with information sufficient to enable them to 
	carry out their civic functions. 

9.2 	Any information that is given to a particular councillor in the performing of their 
	civic duties must also be available to any other councillor who requests it. 

9.3 	Councillors who have a personal (as distinct from civic) interest in a document of 
	council have the same rights of access as any member of the public. 

9.4 	Members of staff of council have an obligation to provide full and timely information 
	to councillors about matters that they are dealing with in accordance with council 
	procedures. 

9.5 	Councillors have an obligation to properly examine and understand all the information 
	provided to them relating to matters that they are dealing with to enable them to make 
	a decision on the matter in accordance with councilís charter.

Refusal of access to documents

9.6 	The general manager and public officer must act reasonably in deciding whether a 
	document sought by a councillor should be made available under section 12 of the Local 
	Government Act 1993 or because it is relevant to the performance of the councillorís 
	civic duty.

	The general manager or public officer must state the reasons for the decision if access 
	is refused. 

Use of council information

9.7 	You must: 

	a	protect confidential information 

	b	only access information needed for council business 

	c	not use confidential information for any non-official purpose 

	d	only release confidential information if you have authority to do so 

	e	only use confidential information for the purpose it is intended to be used 

	f	only release other information in accordance with established council policies
		and procedures and in compliance with relevant legislation 

	g	not use council information for personal purposes 

	h	not disclose any information discussed during a confidential session of a
		council meeting. 

9.8 	You must carry out your duties in a manner that allows council officials and the
	public to remain informed about local government activity and practices. 

9.9 	You must not use confidential information gained through your official position for 
	the purpose of securing a private benefit for yourself or for any other person. 

9.10 	You must not seek or obtain, either directly or indirectly, any financial benefit or 
	other improper advantage for yourself, or any other person or body, from any 
	information to which you had access in the exercise of your official functions or
	duties by virtue of your office or position. 

9.11 	You must not use confidential information with the intention to improperly cause harm 
	or detriment to your council or any other person or body. 

Security of information

9.12 	You must take care to maintain the integrity and security of confidential documents or 
	information in your possession, or for which you are responsible. 

9.13 	When dealing with personal information you must comply with:

	a	the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998, 

	b	the Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002,

	c	the Information Protection Principles and Health Privacy Principles, 

	d	councilís privacy management plan, 

	e	the Privacy Code of Practice for Local Government

	Personal information is information or an opinion about a person whose identity is 
	apparent, or can be determined from the information or opinion. 

Use of council resources

9.14 	You must use council resources ethically, effectively, efficiently and carefully in 
	the course of your public or professional duties, and must not use them for private 
	purposes (except when supplied as part of a contract of employment) unless this use 
	is lawfully authorised and proper payment is made where appropriate. 

9.15 	Union delegates and consultative committee members may have reasonable access to 
	council	resources for the purposes of carrying out their industrial responsibilities, 
	including but not limited to: 

	a	the representation of members with respect to disciplinary matters 

	b	the representation of employees with respect to grievances and disputes 

	c	functions associated with the role of the local consultative committee. 

9.16 	You must be scrupulous in your use of council property, including intellectual
	property, official services and facilities and should not permit their misuse by any
	other person or	body. 

9.17 	You must avoid any action or situation which could create the impression that council 
	property, official services or public facilities are being improperly used for your 
	own or any other person or bodyís private benefit or gain. 

9.18 	The interests of a councillor in their re-election is considered to be a personal 
	interest and as such the reimbursement of travel expenses incurred on election matters
	is not appropriate. 

	Council letterhead, council crests and other information that could give the
	impression it is official council material must not be used for these purposes. 

9.19 	You must not convert any property of the council to your own use unlessproperly 
	authorised. 

9.20 	You must not use councilís computer resources to search for, access, download or 
	communicate any material of an offensive, obscene, pornographic,threatening, abusive
	or defamatory nature. 

Councillor access to council buildings

9.21 	As elected members of the council, councillors are entitled to have access to the 
	council	chamber, committee room, mayorís office (subject to availability), 
	councillorís rooms, and public areas of councilís buildings during normal business 
	hours and for meetings. 

	Should councillors need access to these facilities at other times, authority is 
	required from the general manager in order that necessary arrangements can be made. 

9.22 	Councillors must not enter staff-only areas of council buildings without the approval
	of the general manager (or delegate) or as provided in the procedures governing the
	interaction of councillors and council staff. 

9.23 	Councillors must ensure that when they are within a staff area they are cognisant of 
	potential conflict or pecuniary interest matters and /or a perception that they may 
	bring influence to bear on council staff decisions and should conduct themselves 
	accordingly.

10 REPORTING BREACHES, COMPLAINT HANDLING PROCEDURES & SANCTIONS 

Corrupt conduct, maladministration and waste of public resources

10.1 	You have an obligation to act honestly. 

	You should report any instances of suspected corrupt conduct, maladministration and 
	serious and substantial waste of public resources in accordance with councilís 
	internal reporting policy. 

10.2 	The Protected Disclosures Act 1994 provides certain protections against reprisals for 
	council officials who report such matters. 

	It is an offence to take detrimental action against people who make such reports. 

Reporting breaches of the code of conduct

10.3 	You should report suspected breaches of the code of conduct to the general manager, 
	preferably in writing. 

10.4 	Where you believe that the general manager has failed to comply with this code, you 
	should report the matter to the Mayor, preferably in writing, who will report the 
	matter to the conduct committee. 

Complaint handling procedures - staff conduct (excluding the general manager)

10.5 	Where appropriate, the general manager will make enquiries, or cause enquiries to be 
	made, into breaches of the code of conduct regarding members of staff of council and
	others engaged by the council and will determine the matter.

10.6 	Where the general manager has determined not to enquire into the matter, the general
	manager will give the complainant the reason/s in writing.

10.7 	Enquiries made into staff conduct which might give rise to disciplinary action must
	occur in accordance with the relevant local government award and make provision for
	procedural fairness including the right of an employee to be represented by their 
	union. 

Complaint handling procedures - councillor and general manager conduct

10.8 	Council will establish a conduct committee that will consist of the Mayor, the general
	manager and at least one person independent of council.

	The independent representative/s should comprise councilís nominated legal adviser or 
	other independent person/s of appropriate standing.

	In the instance of a complaint being made by or against the Mayor or the general
	manager, the Deputy Mayor, or another councillor who has been designated by council, 
	will take the place of the Mayor or general manager on the committee. 

10.9 	Councillors should report suspected breaches of the code of conduct to the general 
	manager, preferably in writing, in the first instance and refrain from making 
	allegations at council meetings. 

	Where appropriate, the general manager will report the matter to the conduct 
	committee. 
 
10.10 Where the general manager has determined not to report the matter to the conduct 
	committee, the general manager will give the complainant the reason/s in writing.

10.11	Councilís conduct committee is responsible for making enquiries into allegations 
	breaches of the code of conduct by councillors and must either:

	a	determine not to make enquiries into the allegation and give the reason/s in 
		writing 

	b	make enquiries into the alleged breach to determine the particular factual
		matters, or

	c	engage an independent person to make enquiries into the allegation to determine 
		the particular factual matters. 

10.12 Enquiries made by the general manager, an independent person or the conduct committee
	will follow the rules of procedural fairness. 

	The enquirer must: 

	a	inform the person/s against whose interests a decision may be made of any 
		allegations against them and the substance of any adverse comment in respect of 
		them 

	b	provide the person/s with a reasonable opportunity to put their case 

	c	hear all parties to a matter and consider submissions 

	d	make reasonable enquiries before making a recommendation 

	e	ensure that no person is involved in enquiries in which they have a direct 
		interest 

	f	act fairly and without bias, and 

	g	conduct the enquiries without undue delay.

10.13 	Councilís conduct committee must decide whether a matter reported to it discloses a 
	prima facie breach of this code. 

	The conduct committee will report its findings, and the reasons for these findings, in
	writing to the council, the complainant and the person subject of the complaint. 

10.14 The conduct committee may recommend that council take any actions provided for in this 
	code of conduct that the committee considers reasonable in the circumstances. 

Sanctions

10.15 Where the council finds that a councillor has breached the code, it may decide by 
	resolution to:

	a	censure the councillor for misbehaviour in accordance with section 440G of the Act

	b	require the councillor to apologise to any person adversely affected by the breach 

	c	counsel the councillor 

	d	make public findings of inappropriate conduct 

	e	refer the matter to an appropriate investigative body if the matter is serious
		(for example, the Department of Local Government, the Independent Commission 
		Against	Corruption, the NSW Ombudsman or the NSW Police) 

	f	prosecute for any breach of law. 

10.16 Sanctions for staff depend on the severity, scale and importance of the breach and must 
	be in accordance with any staff agreements, awards, industrial agreements and contracts. 

11 COUNCILLOR MISBEHAVIOUR 

11.1 	For the purposes of Chapter 14, Part 1, Division 3 of the Act, failure by a councillor 
	to comply with an applicable requirement of this code of conduct constitutes misbehaviour.
	(section 440F)

11.2 	Under section 440G a council may by resolution at a meeting formally censure a councillor 
	for misbehaviour. 

11.3  Under section 440H, the process for the suspension of a councillor from civic office can
	be initiated by a request made by council to the Director General ofthe Department of
	Local Government. 

11.4 	The first ground on which a councillor may be suspended from civic office iswhere the
	councillorís behaviour has been disruptive over a period, involving more than one 
	incident of misbehaviour during that period, and the pattern of behaviour during that 
	period is of such a sufficiently serious nature as to warrant the councillorís suspension.

11.5 	Council cannot request suspension on this ground unless during the period concerned the
	councillor has been: 

	a	formally censured for incidents of misbehaviour on two or more occasions,or 

	b	expelled from a meeting of the council or a committee of the council for an 
		incident of misbehaviour on at least one occasion. 

11.6 	The second ground on which a councillor may be suspended from civic office is where the
	councillorís behaviour has involved one incident of misbehaviour that is of such a 
	sufficiently serious nature as to warrant the councillorís suspension. 

11.7 	Council cannot request suspension on this ground unless the councillor has been:

	a	formally censured for the incident of misbehaviour concerned, or 

	b	expelled from a meeting of the council or a committee of the council for the
		incident of misbehaviour concerned. 

11.8 	Under section 440H, the process for the suspension of a councillor can also be 
	by the Department of Local Government, the Independent Commission Against Corruption or 
	the NSW Ombudsman. 

Code of Conduct Guidelines 1

Guidelines for the Code of Conduct 

1 	General conduct obligations

Council officials must act honestly and responsibly when carrying out their functions. 

They have responsibility to behave professionally and to develop and maintain constructive
working relationships. 

a	Appointments to other organisations 

	You may be appointed or nominated by the council as a member of another body or 
	organisation. For example, appointment to a regional organisation of councils.) 

	If so, you will be bound by the rules of conduct of both organisations. 

b	Alcohol and other drugs Intoxication by alcohol or being drug affected is an unsafe
	personal condition and is proven to be a hindrance to the performance of official 
	duties. 

	A person, so affected, cannot provide the high standard of service required. 

	Such a person could also expose others to an unacceptable level of risk (refer to 
	Procedures GM.2.12 &GM.2.66). 

c	Health, well being and safety 

	You should ensure that councilís premises are adequate to ensure the health, 
	safety and well being of other council officials and members of the public. 

d	Public comment by council staff 

	"Public comment" includes public speaking engagements (including comments on radio and 
	television), expressing views in letters to the press or in books or notices or where
	it is reasonably foreseeable that publication or circulation will enter the public
	domain. 

	Public comment or statements on council matters shall only be made in accordance 
	with councilís policy. 

	Council staff must ensure that any other public comment reflects personal opinion. 

e	Child protection code of conduct 

	Under the Ombudsman Act 1974 the head of a designated agency or public authority 
	is responsible for ensuring systems are in place for recording and responding to 
	all allegations of a child protection nature against an employee. 

	The head of an agency is required to determine which allegations and convictions 
	are to be notified to the Ombudsman as a reportable allegation or conviction and 
	which matters are exempt from notification. 

	These exemptions require a code of conduct which includes details of what behaviour 
	by employees is reasonable for the purpose of the discipline, management or care of
	children. 

	The code of conduct should also clarify what is acceptable and what is not 
	acceptable behaviour by employees towards children, as well as what will happen if 
	an employee breaches the councilís code of conduct (refer to Procedures GM.2.62 & 
	GM.2.1). 

2 Conflicts of interest

It does not matter whether a conflict of interest is actual or merely a conflict that could be
reasonably perceived to exist by a third party. 

Both situations negatively impact on public confidence in the integrity of Council.

a	 Club/organisation membership 

	If you are a member of a club or other organisation, for example, sporting, religious,
	community group, you should consider whether your membership gives rise to a conflict of 
	interests in council matters that may affect the club or organisation. 

	The greater your involvement with the club or organisation, the greater likelihood of a
	real or perceived conflict of interests. 

b	Personal relationships 

	You should consider the depth of a personal relationship in deciding whether or not it 
	gives rise to a conflict of interests (refer to Procedure GM.2.2). 

c	Sponsorships 

	Sponsorships should not limit councilís ability to carry out its range of functions
	fully and impartially or influence a council decision. 

	You must never ask for or receive any personal benefits from a sponsorship arrangement.

d	Lobbying 

	A wide range of people, including individuals, organisations, companies and developers
	may lobby you. 

	As a general rule it is an essential element of the democratic system that any individual
	should be able to lobby the council or a councillor. 

	However, particular considerations apply when you are dealing with statutory powers such
	as planning. 

	You must consider evidence and arguments put by a wide range of organisations and 
	individuals in order to perform your duties effectively.

	However, councillors should not respond to oral requests for concessions and require
	written application to be made to the general manager for evaluation by council staff
	and reporting to council of all the consequences of granting the request.

e	Former council officials 

	You must be careful in your dealings with former council officials and make sure that 
	you do not give them, or appear to give them, favourable treatment or access to 
	privileged information. 

	Former council officials must not use, or take advantage of confidential information 
	obtained in the course of their official duties that may lead to gain or profit. 

	At the end of your involvement with council, you must: return all council property, 
	documents or items (keys, mobile phones etc) not make public or otherwise use any
	confidential information gained as a consequence of your involvement with council. 

f	Staff political participation Council staff must ensure that any participation in 
	political activities does not conflict with your primary duty as an employee to serve 
	the council of the day in a politically neutral manner. 

Information to guide decisions about conflict of interests 

There are a number of questions that council officials can ask themselves to help in deciding 
whether or not they have a conflict of interests or whether their behaviour could create the
impression that there is a conflict. 

A detailed list of questions is located at: 

How to decide what is a conflict of interests, page 8, 

Under Careful Consideration: Key Issues for Local Government, 1997, ICAC/Department of Local
Government.

There are some options for avoiding or dealing with a conflict of interests provided in the
code of conduct minimum requirements. 

A more extensive list of options can be found at: 

Options to avoid or deal with a conflict of interests, Fact Sheet No. 3, 
Conflict of Interests, 2003, NSW Ombudsman. (available on Ombudsmanís website)

Pre-requisites to avoid or manage conflict of interests, 2004, NSW Ombudsman. 



























Revised: S: 07:58 Sat 2006/09/16 Syd 2065
F: 14:22 Sat 2006/09/16 Syd 2065
Who: cjg
Authorised: apj
Created: 15:45 Fri 2005/09/09 Syd 2022
By: kmb
Revision: 2PAEAMA1 .001
Original Page: 3a4
Change date:
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