Axing entire council ‘a breach of process’
SACKING the entire Ipswich Council is a denial of natural justice and in breach of recommendations from the corruption busting Fitzgerald Inquiry, Queensland's peak legal body believes.
In a submission to the committee probing the bill which will dissolve the council following a string of corruption-related charges, Queensland Law Society President, Ken Taylor, said the legislation would circumvent established processes and remove the rights and liberties of elected officials.
Mr Taylor said Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe already wielded significant power when it comes to removing councillors from their position and adding to that would be an overreach.
"The dissolution of ICC (Ipswich City Council) has the effect of breaching the principle of the presumption of innocence, by dismissing councillors who have been charged but not convicted, or who are not the subject of any charges or public allegations of wrongdoing, without even the benefit of an administrative Ministerial investigative process making adverse findings against these councillors,'' the submission reads.
"The Minister already has significant powers which enable the Minister to dissolve the local government if the Minister reasonably believes it is in the public interest that every councillor be suspended or dismissed.
"If the Minister "reasonably believes" that the public interest requires ICC be dissolved, then there is no need for this specific instance legislation."
The QLS also hit out at the exclusion of judicial review and appeal in their submission, saying they are "fundamental" legal principles in Australia.
The proposed bill, which is due before Parliament next month will dissolve the entire council and have an administrator appointed until the next council elections in 2020.
"This has the effect of denying the electorate democratically elected representatives for a significant period of time,'' Mr Taylor said.
"This is also inconsistent with the approach outlined in the LGA (Local Government Act) which indicates that when a council is dissolved under the LGA process, it is Parliament's intention that a fresh election be held as soon as practicable.''
The frank assessment of the bill comes as Ipswich's longest serving councillor, Paul Tully last week slammed the State Government, comparing them to the likes of North Korea, Russia and China.
"Al Capone and the Boston Strangler were afforded greater legal rights than the 10 sitting councillors of the Ipswich City Council against whom no allegations or accusations have been made," he wrote.