Message from the Presiding Member

To the Hon David Templeman MLA, Dip Tchg, BEd
Minister for Local Government; Heritage; Culture and the Arts

The following report is the annual report of the Local Government Standards Panel (the Standards Panel) for the period from 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019.

The Standards Panel composition changed from the previous financial year. In April 2019 Mrs Sheryl Siekierka ceased as the Presiding Member and I was appointed on 8 April 2019. Mr Mark Beecroft was replaced by Ms Sarah Rizk as the Deputy to the Presiding Member with effect from 18 March 2019.

Ms Emma Power was appointed as a Legal Member of the Panel from 31 July 2018 and Ms Elanor Rowe was appointed as a Deputy Legal Member from 23 July 2018.

It is appropriate that I acknowledge the former members for their contribution to the Standards Panel. I also wish to express my appreciation to the current members, Ms Sarah Rizk, Cr Paul Kelly, Ms Rebecca Aubrey, Ms Emma Power and Ms Elanor Rowe. All members should be acknowledged for the time they devote to the Standards Panel and also the work they have done to build and refine the body of knowledge and precedent relied upon during the deliberation process.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the staff at the Department for their continued hard work and professionalism in providing administration services to the Standards Panel. Without them, the accomplishments of the Standards Panel would not have been possible.

In 2018-19 the Standards Panel maintained a focus on reducing the time taken for complaints to be finalised by meeting on a more frequent basis with 22 meetings held during the year — an increase from 14 last year — and dealing with more matters at each meeting.

While there has been a significant increase in the number of complaints lodged in 2018-19, with 147 complaints referred to the Standards Panel compared to 82 in 2017-18, the panel was able to finalise 126 complaints.

Amendments to the Local Government Act 1995 will see a mandatory Code of Conduct introduced which all council members will be required to comply with and a requirement for candidates and council members to undertake universal training. This will ensure council members have the necessary training to understand and carry out their role.

Further changes include the power for the Standards Panel to order a council member to reimburse the local government for the cost of the panel proceedings for adverse findings and enabling the Standards Panel to request that both parties to a complaint participate in mediation before the complaint is heard or considered.

Another significant amendment is reducing the time period for lodging complaints from two years to six months.

Confidentiality provisions will also apply during the full process of consideration and finding of a breach, not just during an election period. This will provide greater protection of the reputation of those council members where no breach is found, and potentially reduce the number of complaints being made to cause detriment through adverse publicity.

The Standards Panel remains committed to its objective of making decisions that promote and enforce high behavioural standards by elected members in local governments across Western Australia.

It is my view that the Standards Panel will continue to build on its achievements of 2018-19 and strive to maintain increased efficiency in relation to its operations and the important service it provides to the community and the local government sector.

Michael Connolly Presiding Member

Local Government Standards Panel

27 August 2019

Page reviewed 25 June 2019