Friday, 6 March 2009

Time to strengthen our Code of Conduct

I have today submitted the following Notice of Motion to Newcastle Council...




That Newcastle City Council hold a workshop to strengthen its Code of Conduct generally and specifically by incorporating relevant provisions from the "Good practice suggestions" in the Department of Local Government's Guidelines for the Model Code of Conduct – October 2008 but particularly including clarification:

1. That Political or campaign donations referred to in the Code, are to be taken to include contributions that directly benefit an election campaign, whether it be for a Local, State or Federal election.

2. That the appropriate management of any conflict of interest applies to meetings, including Council meetings, committee meetings, Council workshops, Council briefings, advisory committee meetings and closed Council and committee meetings, as well as interactions between Councillors.


In the report on Code of Conduct complaint against the Lord Mayor Councillor Tate and Councillors Luke, Buman, Connell and King, the Conduct Review Committee Sole Reviewer noted that, according to verbal advice from the Department of Local Government, the provisions of the Conflict of Interests - Political Donations section (7.21 to 7.25) of the Newcastle City Council Code of Conduct as currently written, applies only to political donations received through Local Government Elections.

The Sole Reviewer did note that:

Donations received through other election campaigns, be they State or Federal, may apply to the provisions of the Conflict of Interests sections (7.1 to 7.3 & 7.10 to 7.20) of the Code of Conduct.

A reasonable and informed person would not make the distinction that a political donation for a Local Government election may give rise to a non-pecuniary conflict of interest whereas a political donation for a State Government election or a Federal Government election would not.

This motions aims to remove the ambiguity, to close the loophole and to strengthen the Newcastle City Council Code of Conduct.

References in the Code to Election Funding Act 1981 should be changed to refer to Election Funding and Disclosures Act 1981 as that is the correct name of the Act.

More background can be found at these posts:

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